State-Run Enterprises (SRE) are a burden on the economy, continuous resource drains, largely responsible for our budget deficits, inefficient, need to be sold off or shut down, etc. these are the noises that one routinely hears both in the corridors of power in Islamabad and from most economic pundits. The question is: should they be considered as a liability and therefore disposed of any which way possible or should they be regarded as assets (which given todays inflation and Pak rupees international parity, are almost irreplaceable) that need to be efficiently re-arranged to harness their true potential in order to become our economys engine for growth and employment generation? I, for one, am certainly in favour of the latter and that is why strongly feel that the Ministry of Privatisation should be disbanded or at least renamed and its charter redefined, because in its present form and structure it yields the wrong perception cum message A recent study, conducted in East Africa by the International School of Management, tells us that public sector enterprises tend to provide the much sought-after 'job security in a country where employment opportunities are scarce, economic conditions are faltering, inflation is high and governance is poor. It is a phenomenon, which even amongst the poorest of the poor in such circumstances, tends to take precedence over short-term cash gains. The events at PTCL and KESC tell us that Pakistan is no different. Then, of course, there is that distinction between public-sector/state-owned enterprises and state-run enterprises, which should be treated differently since a public sector organisation need not necessarily be run by the state. Coming back to our main point that if these SRE are indeed causing a yearly loss of nearly Rs300 billion to the national exchequer then what should be done? While surely there can be many plausible ways to turn them around, in this article I will restrict myself to presenting thoughts and remedies strictly in line with some very interesting work done by Thomas Stewart and others at the Harvard University on organisational competitive edge and corporate restructuring. Big ideas come from tackling big problems. When one is confronted with an overwhelming task, it is natural to try to break it down into manageable pieces. Business jargon is full of phrases about that, like manageable sizes and low-hanging fruit. Meaning they have their place, but in the repertory of management practice, they should share their place with bold approaches to big challenges, yet in smaller doses. Much of todays most valuable knowledge came from wrestling with such issues. The most complicated workplace in the middle of the last century and even today remains the large and often unwieldy public sector organisations. Drawn to its complexity were Peter F. Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, and Taiichi Ohno, among others. The work they and their disciples did, applied to industry after industry, is the basis of the best that we know about their operations, managing people, innovation, organisational design and critically the two following cardinal rules: (a) never to link a well performing entity with the poor one in the hope that the goodwill lift the bad (almost always the reverse gets to be true); and (b) not to restrain well performing companies by burdening them with the states revenue requirements. Ironically, when we look at our SRE, we notice that we are violating both these principles. PSO, once a Fortune 500 company and still fairly healthy on paper, has been mired by the monster of circular debt that in all fairness should have nothing to do with it and then we see that very strong national energy companies like Sui Northern, Sui Southern and the OGDC falling victim to truly poor political decisions that diverted (and continue to do so) precious energy resources from productive to non-productive usage. Not only did this result in inefficiencies and revenue losses for these organisations, but it also seriously undermined our national progress, productivity and growth. Such foolishness need to stop Further, the government needs to come up with ways according to which these organisations are restructured so that on the one hand they become more manageable, focused and work to their strengths in small targeted areas of respective expertise, while on the other, they keep their precious, experienced human resource intact by giving them the comfort zone to perform to their potential without feeling threatened about their future. For example, like the Rolls Royce way our PIA can also be broken up by way of zoning, service differentiation and domestic versus international operations, but still all these independent cum autonomous bodies can continue to call themselves and work as PIA. There is no shame in breaking-up to achieve operational viability. Pfizer, the worlds largest pharmaceutical company, recently broke itself into pieces, a restructuring move to gain competitive advantage. The firm has spun off not just its smaller non-pharmaceutical divisions (nutrition, consumer health, animal health and capsule-making), but also its core 'established products division. In essence, while Pfizer in the coming year will be reduced to being a $40 billion company from at present a $67 billion one, its profits and stock value on the contrary are expected to go up by more than 20 percent. Fiat, Philip Morris and Motorola are some other big global companies that are seriously considering restructuring by breaking up into smaller but, more importantly, profitable units. Finally, a good learning model to study is, how Bangladesh has set up private-public partnered management structures (not ownership structures) in not only their state-run companies, but also in their decision making corridors. Policymaking is based on national interests, rather than on the influence of powerful ruling feudal, pressure groups, lobbyists or politically influential players. As an example, their much talked about textile vision is not the brainchild of any one person, but evolved through the input and consensus of different stakeholders. Numerous textile associations play their due role by the weightage assigned to the value of export revenue they command. The government after taking input from the various stakeholders, takes its decisions through a dedicated policymaking board (comprising competent, well reputed and experienced private sector professionals and bureaucrats), which determines solely the long-term development goals of the industry and how to maximise Bangladeshs social and revenue returns SRE, as we all know, are now a serious national concern. By saving them we will be keeping our family silver intact, and by turning them around or cutting their losses we will be creating that the much needed fiscal space to undertake long overdue social reforms. As they say, a rupee saved is a rupee earned, and then if you also take into account the underlying potential of these organisations for contributing revenues, the proposition becomes even more attractive and urgent n The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst. Email: kamalmannoo@hotmail.com.