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Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) 2020 launched                    111,75 Think Tanks across the world ranked in different categories.                SDPI is ranked 90th among “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-US)”.           SDPI stands 11th among Top Think Tanks in South & South East Asia & the Pacific (excluding India).            SDPI notches 33rd position in “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by A Think Tank” category.                SDPI remains 42nd in “Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedure” category.              SDPI stands 49th in “Think Tank to Watch in 2020”.            SDPI gets 52nd position among “Best Independent Think Tanks”.                           SDPI becomes 63rd in “Best Advocacy Campaign” category.                   SDPI secures 60th position in “Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks” category.                       SDPI obtains 64th position in “Best Use of Media (Print & Electronic)” category.               SDPI gains 66th position in “Top Environment Policy Tink Tanks” category.                SDPI achieves 76th position in “Think Tanks With Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program” category.                    SDPI notches 99th position in “Top Social Policy Think Tanks”.            SDPI wins 140th position among “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”.               SDPI is placed among special non-ranked category of Think Tanks – “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19”.                                            Owing to COVID-19 outbreak, SDPI staff is working from home from 9am to 5pm five days a week. All our staff members are available on phone, email and/or any other digital/electronic modes of communication during our usual official hours. You can also find all our work related to COVID-19 in orange entries in our publications section below.    The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is pleased to announce its Twenty-third Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 14 – 17 December 2020 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19. Read more…       FOOD SECIRITY DASHBOARD: On 4th Nov, SDPI has shared the first prototype of Food Security Dashboard with Dr Moeed Yousaf, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on  National Security and Economic Outreach in the presence of stakeholders, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Provincial and district authorities attended the event in person or through zoom. The dashboard will help the government monitor and regulate the supply chain of essential food commodities.

Politics powered by public funds

The main source of funding for all public sector departments and projects all over the world is the revenue which is being collected from citizens either by direct or indirect taxes. On other hand that collected revenue is known as public funds whenever government spends on any project, activity, services or infrastructure. However case is different in oil rich countries as those countries have minimum dependency on taxes to run their public sector departments. The real owner of public funds is public. We can say public funds mean the funds collected from the public and spend for the public.

Unfortunately, public sector institutions in Pakistan are badly suffering from mismanagement of public funds, poor planning and low quality of service delivery. Ordinary citizens and taxpayers never come to know about proper utilization of public funds and the reasons for failure of any project built by the public funds. And why not a single institution is held responsible by the government and what policy measures are under way to minimize the rate of failures.

Accountability and transparency in the public sector is still a far cry. Annual economic surveys, budget documents, parliamentary proceedings and discussions, performance reports and government websites never reflect any information about the budget, cost and saving of any of project, programme or public institutions. Although, as per the Right of access to information Act 2017, every citizen can request to get any information from any government institution at federal level. And same Act is available in provinces with different name. But due to lack of awareness, most of our people do not have any information about this basic right.

Either our public office holders or our relevant officials are not capable or both are not taking care to control these type of issues may be because they have authority to play and waste public funds

How easily our relevant departments plan, develop and execute low quality projects funded public funds. However, we have very strict monitoring and quality check procedures in documents but due to moral and financial corruption project engineers, third party consultants and decision makers approve projects and execute funds. In other words public funds are being wasted but nobody is taking care of all this wastage.

We know, if a small or medium class contractor plan any personal project the contractor can get good quality on very low cost and if same project is being done by public funds then case will be vice versa as low quality on high cost. The answer is very simple, in first case personal funds are used and in second case public funds are used. So we can understand whenever we use public funds we love to waste these funds in terms of corruption, low quality and high cost etc.

The management of mega public sector organizations have also same story. Because these entities are also being run by public funds. Let’s have a look on few of them.

Pakistan Steel was the country’s largest industrial undertaking having a production capacity of 1.1 million tons of steel with a third unloading and conveyor system at Port Qasim is the third largest in the world. PSM recorded a loss of Rs16.9 billion in 2008-09, which jumped to Rs118.7 billion in five years. PSM’s loss continued to swell and reached Rs200 billion at the end of its tenure on May 31, 2018. During all this fall, governments used public funds for overstaffing, corruption, bailout plans and release of salaries without any production.

Pakistan International Airline is also suffering from poor management and corruption and governments always released bailout schemes to bring out the national flag carrier from the mud of corruption. All these relief plans were provided from public funds.

The Mass Transit project of Lahore Metro Bus Service was also one of the most expensive project where public funds were used for low quality infrastructure on high rates. If we compare the similar projects of that time in neighboring country, it will make it more clear that how public office holders wasted public funds.

The total length of Lahore metro bus track is 27km (8 km elevated) with 64 buses and total cost of this project is Rs 30 billion with per kilometer cost of Rs. 1.1 billion. On other hand same project is done in Amritsar, India and numbers are different and better in all aspects. The total length of Amritsar Bus Project is 31 km (12km elevated) with 78 buses and the total cost of the project is Rs 9 billion and per kilometer is Rs.29 million. These amounts are in Pakistani Rupees. The purpose to share this comparison of total cost is to give an idea that how our decision makers finalize contracts without keeping in view that the cost of the project will be generated from public funds. While same project with more features and high quality is done comparatively with less cost.

To gain rapid political benefits before general election, The then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government laid the foundation stone of 8th wonder of this world with the name of Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (Peshawar BRT) in a bit hurry without any proper planning, feasibility and project cycle-1. Although the project is initially being built with the assistance from the Asian Development Bank. It was projected to cost ?41 billion, but its final estimated cost is approximately ?66.437 billion.

The total cost for the 27.37 kms road project is estimated at Rs66.437 billion. This translates into approximately Rs2.427 billion cost per kilometre which is exorbitantly high. The master mind of this project is not going to pay back all this ADB loan from his pocket. Yes all these billions of dollars will be paid back from public funds in future.

Orange Line Train was said to be a gift from China to Punjab. Public was told that out of a total initial cost of Rs165 billion, China was providing Rs150 billion. That money however was in the form of a loan and eventually further financing was required as due to mismanagement and poor planning the cost of the project reportedly escalated to Rs271 billion which will be paid from public funds generated from the pockets of poor Pakistanis. These all above mentioned mega projects and public sector organizations are badly suffering from corruption, mismanagement, poor planning, unprofessionalism, politics and nepotism. Who is responsible for all this mess? Above mentioned all projects were launched by political leaders and at the end losses are being recovered from public funds.

In all these departments we have highly qualified engineers, consultants and professionals. Why they are unable to ensure good planning, quality of work on best competitive rates. It means there is something wrong with system. Either our public office holders or our relevant officials are not capable or both are not taking care to control these type of issues may be because they have authority to play and waste public funds.

All mega projects at federal and provincial level and small projects at district levels are announced by political leaders to gain their political targets and these projects in fact open doors for corruption, nepotism, extra income and misuse of public funds. Who will change all this process so that public funds can be saved from wastage?

This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/637241/politics-powered-by-public-funds/

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.