If there is one thing that people remember about the economic policy of the short-lived tenure of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, it was the two-wave process of nationalisation. Backed by a socialist rationale, Bhutto’s nationalisation was an attempt of the devolution of power from the hands of the poor into the hands of the public.
It’s been 50 years since the decision was made by Bhutto. Over the years, most of the businesses that Bhutto nationalised, have been privatised once again, but the ones that haven’t, live to serve as a case study of how socialism and the developing world do not go hand in hand.
What, however, cannot be attributed to Bhutto is the current portfolio of Pakistan’s State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). Pakistan has a total of 212 state owned entities, 85 out of which are commercial entities. A recent report published by the World Bank has named Pakistan’s SOE’s as the worst in Asia. Within the coming week, it is also expected that the finance division will table an SOE bill in Parliament. The bill represents the actions proposed in the latest WB report.
To understand how Pakistan decided to use the findings of the WB report to implement a strategy of obtaining a result that would identify what to do with which SOE, we have to go back to the start. Once we do that, we will look at the viability of this strategy itself.