A LOT DONE BUT LITTLE RECOGNIZED
THOSE CLAIMING TO DO A LOT ARE ACCUMULATING PERSONAL WEALTH IN THE NAME OF PUBLIC SERVICE.
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Apr 16 - 22, 2012
Strangely a lot of good work done by corporate sector, NGOs and even individuals is never reported in the media, print as well as electronic. If one looks around in Karachi on could find institutions which are more than centuries old and have been most devoted. It is only recent phenomenon that a lot is being talked and reported about corporate social responsibility (CSR). It is a jargon of west, which has exploited its employees the worst and created most of the population but having learnt from their past mistakes is trying to mend the things. However, most of the much talked about work is done because of the requirements of the state. But, the amount spent of CSR is only miniscule compared to the profit being made annually.
Looking around shows that people in this part of world have initiated hundreds and thousands of projects that fall in the category of Sadqua-e-Jaria (yielded benefits over the years and will continue to benefit public at large). One of the most striking examples was 'Payo' created for satisfying thirst of donkeys, horses, and camels. At that time, there are few motor cars or other vehicles and animal driven carts were used for carrying people and goods. There were no charges and any one and every one could quench thirsts of his/her animals there. As opposed to this, now rich and poor buy water because bulk of water moving in lines is stolen by 'tanker mafia'. People owe billion of rupees to Karachi water and sewerage board (KW&SB) which is responsible for supplying drinking water and disposal of effluents.
The other passion was establishing educational institutions and healthcare units. Some of the old monuments are Sindh Madressatul Islam, NED University, Islamia College, Dawood Engineering College (occupied by Rangers for decades) and Lady Dufferin Hospital to name a few. The latest additions are Aga Khan Hospital, SSUET, Kidney centre, Tabba Hospital, and a number of private universities operating in Quaid's city.
A lot of institutions are also working in other parts of the country and the one of the most outstanding contributions has been creation of university in D. I. Khan but it is in no way to undermine the importance of LUMS established by the corporate sector in Lahore.
Much of the work lately done in Pakistan pertains to conglomerates. It is mainly because accusing to the laws of the country of origin it is mandatory that corporates spend a specific part of their profit after tax on welfare of stakeholders mainly workers, areas where they operate, environment and above all welfare of people in general.
Many Pakistani companies are also making huge contributions not because of any legal compulsion but overall management policy. Companies like Engro's fertilizer unit, Pakistan Tobacco Company, HUBCO, PARCO, Al-Ghazi Tractors and ICI Pakistan deserve specific mention. Among all, Aga Khan Foundation also emerges distinguished because of its contribution particularly in the northern areas of Pakistan.
To be honest, providing basic facilities like health, education, environment protection is considered as the responsibility of the state around the world. However, people of Pakistan have to work of 'self help' basis to get these facilities. Those who have money run hospitals and educational institutions on 'commercial basis' which results in exploitation. Ironically, politicians and elected representatives of Pakistan have never realized this inadequacy.
About 90 per cent of tax collected is spent on defence, debt servicing and luxurious lives of elected representatives and government employees. Another big chunk is swallowed by the state owned enterprises. Education and healthcare get less than three per cent each but most of the funds go towards salary of ghost teachers, maintenance of schools. Heaviest corruption is found in government owned hospitals. Substandard medicines are procured.
This also reminds killing of large number of school children when earthquake hit northern areas of Pakistan in 2005. Since the school buildings were constructed in gross violation of rules and ill maintained, most of those collapsed when high intensity tremors hit the areas. This story is not confined to rural areas but also common even in urban areas. Lately, some of the government schools were 'adopted' by the private particularly in Sindh. However, little is known about the current status.
In the past, educational institutions were nationalized but quality of education deteriorated in public sector. Even today, private schools, colleges and universities are doing thriving business, only because they don't face any competition from public sector institutions.
Here it is necessary to pinpoint that that many plots were obtained in the name of educational institutions but the reality is that they are minting millions of rupees as 'Marriage Halls/Gardens'. Similarly, private hospitals also charge exorbitant fees.
It may not be wrong to say that while hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities may be alleged of charging high fees, the situation would have been worst without those. The situation can still be improved through greater accountability and ensuring good governance. This in no way suggests that government establishes regulatory authorities. The experience with the existing regulatory authorities like Nepra, Ogra, Pemra, and PTA is not good. All these authorities have been working to protect the government rather than other stakeholders i.e. employees, consumers and people at large.
The situation can be improved by recognizing those who do well and penalizing those who don't meet the basic criteria. The civil society must play its role rather than complaining that the government is not doing enough.
Let one point be kept in mind that out of total work force of Pakistan, less than 10 per cent work for government or state-owned enterprises. But, the state owned enterprises eat into more than Rs300 billion of tax payers' money.