Privatization Commission – A mockery to the notion of business sense and efficiency, a syndicate to facilitate thievery
Have you ever sold a car or a house? Its common sense that one would not sell a car or a house in a broken condition, instead one should do the required maintenance so you can get the maximum price from the sales. But our bureaucrats don’t think its a good idea.
As a private citizen, we do not have access to the detail transaction record for each and all of the privatization efforts that has been done during Ershad, Khaleda, Hasina and Khaleda regimes. However, based on the perception that is conveyed through the media, it seems that government was running the privatization board (or commission at the later time) as an official syndicate to plunder the assets of state. It is a shame the present government hasn’t been able to identify the very nature of syndication that existed during the past regimes – at the beginning at least. Not only that, some elements within the government machinery has even continued that effort.
Its a shame that our so called free media didn’t have time to look into this aspect of the syndication that has been going on to plunder the national assets.
The problem is very fundamental. If you talk to anybody – the government officials, the development partners or the so-called consultants – everybody would tell you that these government industries are loosing money and thats why they should be privatized or sold to the private sector.
WRONG. This whole notion of selling a loosing a industry is totally wrong.
An unsuspecting citizen might ask – who will buy this loss-making industry? On the face of it, it sounds so logical. That allows the government bureaucrats to lower the prices of this industries. One would not be surprised if there was efforts and indiscipline instilled within the factory floors just before the selling offer – to make it more cheaper. This is a tale of unholy syndication among the bureaucrats, businessmen and labour leaders. In the middle is the nation and its poor workers.
Lets say you are the responsible person to look after the assets of some children whose guardians are no longer around. You have several money making units, including a house and car. You are supposed to maintain the assets well, run the businesses efficiently and make sure that the future of the children is safe. But instead, you do the totally opposite. First of all, you allow chaos to reign in into the business units that you are looking after. At some point, you make yourself and other overseers convinced that selling these assets might be a good idea for the better future of the children instead of running them. (Upto now, it was a story of inefficiency and mis-management. However, criminal activities starts from here!) Once such a decision is made, you then make pacts with would-be buyers. You promise them a lower then market price. This unholy syndicate of bureaucrat and private-buyer then co-opts some hoodlum labour leaders. The unholy syndicate is now stronger. Probably some newsman and editors of the newspapers and electronic media is also co-opted. The whole syndication is now complete. Then your hired hoodlum labour leaders make unrest in those business units. The newsman do their job. So, the value of those businesses deteriorates. So, the private party makes the buy with a lowest possible price. Everybody in the syndicate is winner except for the children whose property it was!!
So, why we are telling this hypothetical story? There is a reason.
There is a public perception that this is the kind of things that goes on in the name of privatization. This hypothetical story might be extreme in its possibilities, but there are reasons to believe that such heinous acts were being done during our previous governments. And the present government should not continue that thievery.
So, what do we propose the governments do? Continue the loss?
No way. We think the government should continue the privatization – but with a different approach. What is being done so far, its a thievery. Rather government should do some business transactions through these privatization efforts that makes sense.
First of all, you never sell an industry just because its making loss.
Government should make it clear to the public that it does not want to be in business. Government is the owner of the whole country. It gets taxes from every activities that goes on within the territory. Why government needs to have certain business as its own? It creates the grounds of discrimination in the business environment. It clips the strength of the regulators since one of the competitors (whom you are supposed to regulate) is a family member. Even if the government agencies, the regulators do not do anything wrong, there is a chance that such a scenario will lower the business confidence. So, as a policy – government should declare its intention of getting out of all the businesses – except for those which are necessary to own for national security reasons.
This declaration will have to be crystal clear – the government does not want be in doing business, rather it wants to focus on regulation and tax collection. Once that is done, then the next question is how do you get to there from here?
Which ones you start selling? The profitable ones or the loosing ones? Which ones do you sell now? Let us be clear again. We want to sell all of them. But which ones do we sell first?
The question can be rephrased this way. Which ones do you sell first – the ones for which you will get fair market price now or the ones for which you will get lower than fair market price now? If you are not part of the unholy syndication and if you are intelligent enough – your answer should be clear and straightforward. You should sell those items which will get you fair market price now. Also, you should focus on the other units, manage those well so that you can have them up-to-the-fair-market-price level soon. Once you can do that with better management, then you should go ahead and sell those.
Now, if you are an advisor in the CTG or somebody else in the policy-maker level, and if you do not understand this simple thing or if you do not know how to bring the loss making units to profitable ones, you should try other options. Engage the best people you have to bring discipline in those units. Selling an unprofitable unit does not make sense. Thats foolish. That policy was started by the theives in the administration and don’t continue the thievery, either knowingly or unknowingly.
If you really really do not understand this – most likely you do not deserve to be where you are. We are sorry to say that – but yes – you either lack good intention or you lack the gray matter. You should not continue with you job. You should consider other options.
If you understand what we are saying here, then first, you should stop all the privatization efforts as it was done so far. Your future efforts should be two pronged. First, revisit the policies and put them in the right perspective based on the suggestions so that government’s actions makes business sense. Second, look at all the privatization related transactions and get some big fish policymakers within the bureaucracy. Bring them to justice. If you can get them, hand over to police. If you can not prove them right-away, refer the cases to the ACC.
If you thought some of the ideas are worth of your reading time, please forward it to others. If you have an ear to the members of the CTG, economists, policy makers and labour related personnel, please forward it to them. If you have an ear to the journalists and news editors of the electronic media, discuss it with them. Hope they would look at the suggestions and give due diligence.