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July 8, 2020

PTDC issues

Editorial

 
July 8, 2020

The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The latest is that the PTDC has reportedly shut down the operations of 36 of its motels and fired as many as 450 employees. The reason given is the financial losses aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of these PTDC units had already been declared unfit and closed for over a year now. This is despite the PM’s announcement about his vision to revive the tourism sector in the country. Ever since changes at the National Tourism Coordination Board (NTCB), we have been hearing about plans to attract millions of tourists to Pakistan. There has been grand talk about facilitating visas and providing first-class reception to foreigners visiting Pakistan, and now suddenly we hear that the government has had another U-turn with its promises.

Government representatives have repeatedly rubbished rumours of the PTDC shutting down and have even promised that a restructuring is underway to transform the corporation into a vibrant organization with a better workforce and improved policymaking. In the latest development, the Pakistan Hotels Association (PHA) has offered the federal government its partnership to prevent the closure of the PTDC motels especially in northern areas. It is true that the PTDC had been facing a financial crunch even before Covid-19 hit the country, but the way it is being handled is pretty unfortunate. While the intentions of the PHA cannot be doubted, there are certain points that must be raised before a final decision is taken in this regard. First, the PTI-led government has been blaming the previous governments for failing to revive the public sector, and it assumed power with a promise to improve the lot of the state-owned enterprises.

Second, so-called public-private partnership usually ends up in the usurpation of precious government assets by the private sector with the connivance of bureaucrats and public officials. The governments make public organizations dysfunctional and become keen on partnering with the private sector, which is even more eager to lap up the assets that essentially belong to the public. Let it be clear that the private sector has an essential motive of profit-making while the public sector has at its roots the public interest first. We have seen privatization of banks, educational institutions, K-Electric, PTCL, and many others which have resulted in a huge bonanza for the buyers and exploitation of public land and other assets. What the government needs to do is rehabilitate the PTDC with efficient planning and management which has been the weakest point of the present government. In two-years’ time, the government should have come up with a thorough planning process resulting in a viable strategy, but be it PIA, Pakistan Railways, Pak Steel, and now the PTDC, no revival is in sight, no plans ready and no strategy developed. What we have had is just talk and more talk.