The Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) has been complaining to the High Courts that it is on the verge of bankruptcy (Dec 2012). The company has been trying to increase its prices and have succeeded in doing so. I visited the SSGC head office, to find out why they were sending me 6 months bills late as the number of units accumulated into a very high figure, subjecting my bill to the highest price per unit.

I found a queue of consumers complaining about their bills, who were being told by a senior manager that the SSGC is facing bankruptcy, and that's why the company had to raise the price again. And if they would follow him he could give them the copy of the latest price increase notification for Feb 2013. I found this manager’s duplicity very amusing as I saw three applications for free connection for his staff on his desk. This manager was giving all the consumers a speech about bankruptcy, while he was finalising free connections. If a company is facing bankruptcy than it is its duty to reduce their internal expenditure, but in Pakistan it is the opposite. Companies like WAPDA, SSGC, SSGP, PIA, PSM, etc are all giving out excessive privileges to their staff members thus bringing down profits.

Lack of leadership, direction or even a normal audit check is the root cause. It is because, we the consumers have no choice but to use these corrupt, inefficient government organizations, that have been given complete monopoly, and it is because of these illegal monopolies that these companies and their lazy and prodigal staff are a burden on Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan should use the technique adopted by the British Government in 2000 for increasing competition in the telecom sector. ‘British Telecom’ was government owned; the company constructed the entire telecom network holding monopoly with their vast cable network. But their services were deteriorating and the British Government was finding it difficult to privatise BT, due to its size.

Therefore they passed a special law, freezing the prices offered by BT for 15 years, and during this time they allowed private companies to enter the telecom market. And to reduce BT influence, the British Government allowed all private companies to use the BT cable network for a fixed monthly rate. This allowed private companies, with no field experience a presence in UK, to be able to sell at cheaper calling rates and internet to the UK consumers that were routed through the BT cables. Thus they gave citizens cheapest rates at the same service level, this gave an edge to the new telecom companies to start their business in UK, creating new jobs and revenues of tax and at the same time introducing healthy competition in the UK telecom sector.

Such a system to introduce new competition would require some creative thinking. But at least in the case of SSGC, SNPL and WAPDA (and associated DISCOS) the government can use the BT model used by the UK government, to introduce new service providers of gas and electricity, two of the basic requirements for all citizens, to the people of Pakistan and also ensuring a steady supply, excellent service, best prices, job creation, tax generation and security of guaranteed service of the two most important requirements of the citizens of Pakistan.

SHAHRYAR KHAN BASEER,

Peshawar, March 7.