Devising a Growth Strategy for Pakistan (3): What Would You Do With PIA?

Posted on February 10, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Law & Justice
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Adil Najam

As we continue with our series on devising a new growth strategy for Pakistan, one cannot but think of the PIA fiasco being played out at airports all across Pakistan. Part of any growth strategy would be dealing with institutions like PIA, deciding what to do with and to them, and taking and implementing some tough decisions. Take a look at Pakistani airports today and you will realize that tough decisions are tough everywhere, but much tougher in Pakistan today. And, frankly, there are many good reasons why.

As everyone remains consumed in the politics of the moment around the PIA stoppage and strikes story, we wanted to invite you to look beyond the moment. What would YOU do if you had to manage PIA, reform PIA, and how would (and should) this figure into Pakistan’s new growth strategy?

In some ways PIA is a really good example because it effects so many of us in very real and immediate ways. Certainly, it does for me – I am supposed to fly PIA from New York to Lahore early next week and at this time wondering what is in store for me. But the problems are bigger than our immediate discomforts. Indeed, the deal with the Turkish airline and the reasons for the current management woes and strikes are all indicators of rather than the real cause of the malaise.

PIA is a storm that has been brewing up for a long time – chronically bad management, over-staffing, politicization, inefficiency, a culture of entitlement, creeping technical incompetence, infrastructure falling apart. None of this is new and none of this will go away even if the current strikes are “resolved.”As far back as November 2006, we at ATP were asking: ‘Can PIA Survive?’

So, what will it take to really and truly “resolve” the PIA crisis within the context of a national growth strategy?

Any ideas?

(Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series on Pakistan’s New Growth Strategy – see first two, here and here. The Planning Commission of Pakistan has invited ideas and suggestions on this and we invite and encourage our readers to please help in highlighting the best and most innovative ideas they can think of. Have your say.)

25 responses to “Devising a Growth Strategy for Pakistan (3): What Would You Do With PIA?”

  1. Salman Javed says:

    Privatise it for up to 51% and let the government keep the rest. With the private having the controlling share they will work for profits. The only trouble is there might me people losing jobs. Which in all fairness I think is needed to a certain extent. Also, perks for the employees will have to be slashed, no more free tickets, etc. The perks are mind blowing I dont know any airline in europe offering that many and so exotic.

  2. nhmukhtar says:

    Privatize. The government has failed to turn this loss-making enterprise around; let the private sector have a shot.

  3. Asad Mansoor says:

    PIA should be shutdown now as it no more “great people to fly with” it is not a honor to fly with. She is just a white elephant now. It is just snatching money from its natives only as compared to other air line’s facilities

  4. Some comments from the ATP Facebook page:

    – “PIA has been the hatchery for some of the world top class airlines (EMIRATES, ETIHAD etc)! And now the hatchery itself has more hens, cocks and doodles then it needs!! All I can do for PIA now is PRAY!”
    – “The PIA called the mother of airlines and now what our people trying to do with PIA??? Who is behind all this??? never understand the people of Pakistan…………”
    – “just i can do pray for PIA.because in Pakistan day by day problems are increasing ,,”
    – “I think a certain BREAK DOWN IN COMMUNICATION might be behind all the mess at PIA. PIA should be managed like a proper corporation and not a charity organisation that hires for the sake of hiring,for instance.”

  5. banjara286 says:

    conceivably, privatization could offer one way out, but it is a dicey affair in a political set up such as ours.

    in order for any privatized organization to turn the corner and become profitable, the new management would have to drastically cut the number of useless employees and hire fewer more competent professionals instead. understanding why this must be so brings us face to face with the real reasons for why these organizations turn into white elephants and become financial disasters.

    the biggest single reason why this bloated over staffing happens is political patronage. crown corporations (like pia) are used by the governments of the day to grant massive political favors (in the form of unnecessary jobs) to their supporters irrespective of their ability (any kind of a job) or the needs of the organization. i honestly believe that not only pia, but pakistan railways, steel mills, wapda and any number of other public corporations under govt control, have at least three times the number of employees than are actually needed to run them profitably.

    this real problem of political patronage will not disappear by somehow trying to find a magic solution for pia. the rot prevades through and through, and a massive overhaul of the political culture is necessary.

    however, for political parties to privatize means taking a major hit in support from their vote banks, not to mention the street violence that any efforts to streamline the corporations generate. we saw this happen recently when kesc cut down staff, and it is now happening much more forcefully with the pia saga.

    next to no taxation revenue plus bloated payrolls in the public sector is a sure fire recipe for disaster, don’t u think?

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