APROPOS Afshan Sabohi’s article ‘A PPP success story’ (Sept 9). There is a general myth around Sindh’s positive performances in its regulatory environment especially in partnership selection criteria, fairness, openness of bids and contracts, and its institutional environment.

In this regard, The Economist included Sindh as a “potential model of best practice” in a study evaluating the environment for public-private partnership in Asian countries.

It is time this myth was busted for the greater good of the province. The hype over the success of public-private is nothing but wishful thinking on the part of certain vested interest. Sindh requires a new approach to enhancing accountability and trust that combine supply-side and demand-side reforms. Perverse incentives have resulted in conditions where corruption actually becomes the system rather than the exception.

In this context, the creation of new forms and institutions alone is not enough to tackle corruption. Past approaches to corruption have focused on such administrative actions like developing new institutions or improving the capacity of institutions through new technologies and imported rules with little to show for them.

Such form-based capacity building is important, but is not enough if the underlying perverse incentives remain unchanged. With regard to corruption, this implies a need for more multi-faceted approaches rather than merely enhanced policing.

In particular, Sindh should mix supply-side changes that directly adjust the institutional incentives facing civil servants with demand-side reforms that enhance the role of citizens and firms in demanding improved performance.

To create a growth-enabling environment, and generate more and better jobs across the province through private sector-led growth, the Sindh government must reform the way in which it governs the province — by improving accountability and transparency to enhance citizen and firm trust in the state.

A lack of accountability has led to an under-provision of services, particularly to Sindh’s poorest and most vulnerable groups, and has undermined incentives for private sector investment.

Without improving governance, sustainable growth in Sindh will not be possible.

To sum it up, Sindh’s provincial context makes reform challenging. Poorly defined intergovernmental relations and a wide rural-urban gap with an uneven balance of economic and political power combine to undermine political incentives for effective reform.

Raja Masroor Hassan

Karachi

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019

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