The federal Minster for Privatization declared before the media that the government had decided to privatize 23 state-owned organizations including the Utilities Stores Corporation within the next few months. He added that while handing over the administrative control of management to successful bidders, the government intends to hold on to a 26 percent shares as its own strategic stake in the units to be privatized. The basic idea of privatization was that the state should confine itself to regulation only and the operation and ownership of industrial enterprises and utilities should be left to the private sector. Some economists, though, are of the view that the states that started late in the race of industrial development should use the public sector to initiate industrial development as the private sector in these developing countries is often shy of making the sort of investment, or is too small or too inexperienced and ill-equipped to embark upon industrialization on its own. The privatization of public sector corporations started in Pakistan during the Zia regime in 1985 but the pace was accelerated during 1991-1994 and in the post-2001 period. According to the latest analyses, out of the 83 privatised units that were disinvested by the government up to October 15, 2002, only 22 fared any better than they were doing before privatization, 44 remained at the same level but the remaining 34 deteriorated or closed down. The cases of Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation (KESC) and the Pakistan Telecom Corporation Ltd (PTCL), once a profitable organization when privatised after 2002, are the worst. Not only did the services of these two utilities deteriorated but the objective of bringing foreign investment could also not be achieved. The condition of privatised banks is no better as in order to show better performance, they have thrown out tens of thousands from their lower staff in the name of 'right-sizing and, then, gone ahead and lowered interest on deposits while they raised interests on loans, earning enormous spreads. Unfortunately, they have contributed nothing significant to the economic activity of the country because the loans they advanced were mostly consumer loans with very high default rate. The privatization is a complex exercise with multifaceted implications. Therefore, before offering what is left of our family silver, the government must keep the balance-sheet of success and failures in mind. -ALTAF AHMED, Hyderabad, February 15