Privatisation, downsizing and pension reforms

Pension reforms, downsizing and contractual government employment part of restructuring

Present PTI Government contrary to its promises made to the people of Pakistan before the elections, is going to decisively attack the working class rights on the dictates of International Imperialist financial institutions. The PTI government is planning to reduce the retirement age from sixty (60) years to fifty five (55) and also thinking to alter the service structure 1973 to end the pension rights of the government servants and employees of the public sector.

A committee was formed by the PTI government under the chairmanship of former Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain to reform the civil service. It was generally believed that this committee will propose the recommendations to reform the civil service to make it more efficient and focused on service delivery to the people. But now media reports are coming out that the government wants to reform the whole civil state sector excluding the military, paramilitary and police. It seems that government wants to introduce sweeping reforms in the public sector.
The government wants to cut down the size of public sector and government. The total strength of federal government employees is 581,240 including 32,334 female employees and 16,711 non-Muslim employees, says the Establishment Division Report 2017-18. The report revealed that sanctioned posts are 660,657 against the filled seats of 581,240. The number of vacant posts is 79,417. The number of female employees is only 32,334 out of total strength. The distribution of actual strength shows that a small share of 4.63% is occupied by the officers working in basic scales 17-22, whereas 95.37% is occupied by employees working in basic scales 1-16, which is a very large share in the total number of Federal Government civil servants.  The number of employees belonging to Occupational Groups is 6,298. The government already slashed 80,000 permanent seats in the federal government few weeks ago.
There are around 2.7 million government employees working for provincial governments.  There is accurate data available for federal employees but it is difficult to find accurate data on provincial governments.  
Dr Ishrat Hussain made his intentions clear and said that “We have the regular retirement policy in addition to the early retirement policy, which has been notified. Pension, he said, is a bomb that is going to explode in the future, because our pension bill is just going up and up every year. In fact, our pension bill is now more than our salary bill. We want to go the defined-contribution mechanism, as identified after actuarial analyses during my time as the Chairman of Pay and Pension Commission in 2010-11. The government has appointed a Pay and Pension Commission, which would present recommendations for pension reform moving away from pay as you go to Defined Contribution and creating a Pension Fund. This would not only save the government from future fiscal burden but also help in deepening the capital markets in Pakistan.”
 For achieving this anti workers goals, PTI Government has constituted three different Committees. The First Committee is supposed to prepare the proposals for the workers, working from scale one to sixteen (01 to 16), second committee to prepare the proposals from scale seventeen to nineteen (17 to 19) and third Committee from twenty to twenty to twenty two (20 to 22).
It's obvious that every government whether democratic or dictatorships, since 1977, when second elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia and imposed Marshall law, made efforts to implement the neo-liberal economic policies in Pakistan on the dictations  of World Bank and IMF. 
One should know that in the period of 1970s, all major private industries and utilities were put under the public ownership under the nationalization program by the first PPP government led by Z.A Bhutto.

General Zia dictatorship set up a commission for leveling the field for privatization and initially could return the Ittefaq foundries only, to Mian Sharif, Father of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.  General Zia regime also privatised the state owned hotel chain Intercontinental’s now known as Pearl continental hotels. After the death of General Zia in a plane crash, when elections were also held and PPP had won the elections but government was not handed over to Benazir Bhutto yet, some cabinet ministers of Zia dictatorship, made an unconstitutional deal with IMF / World Bank bonding future Governments to privatization of the national assets which wasn't their domain at that stage.
Unfortunately PPP government led by Benazir Bhutto could not defend its fundamental legacy of nationalization and floated 10% Shares of PIA through stock market in 1988 but she could not privatize any major institution. PPP remained swinging like pendulum between both the economic policies and could not prove itself with any Independent economic policy at later stages unlike its fundamental legacy which it had in 1970s.
Pace of privatization was picked up after creation of PC.5 when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched a privatization program on 22nd January 1991. Nawaz Sharif regime did so much massive privatization of national assets, that Kaiser Bengali the famous Pakistani economist called it the "the Juma Bazaar" of privatization. Resultantly the national wealth fell into the hands of big business oligarchs and the wealth gap increased dramatically in 1990s.
 The second intensified privatization program was launched in 2001-2 during the Musharraf regime under the supervision of finance minister and later Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who put 80%-90% industries, banking and other sectors under the management of the Private ownership till the end of 2007. KESC and PTCL were also privatised during that period. Both Nawaz Sharif and General Musharaf did massive privatisation in their respective tenures.  
Unfortunately this is the final phase of privatization of left over national assets, going on under the PTI regime, which is not only going to privatize the left over national institutions but at the same time, it's going to further attack the term and conditions of the workers and finally going to demolish the service structure of 1973. PTI regime has already abolished thousands of vacant posts and it's further planning to launch temporary employment policy for future in which hiring will be made on contractual basis and complete hire and fire Rights will be given to the owners of the companies. It's quite obvious that with such policies, there will be no Trade Unions Rights for working people of this country. This may be the time for working class and Trade Union leadership of this country for which it is said now or never and this is the time for PPP which may have the last opportunity for its revival and to connect with the working class and other progressive forces to move ahead united with clear alternative and pro-people economic policy against the neoliberal economic policies.

                                                                 Kabir Khan 

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