Public utility companies such as Wapda are supposed to be national assets; to generate profits for the government to increase revenue. In Pakistan however, most of them have been reduced to nothing more than a burden, leeching from the already-depleted national kitty. The problem is more convoluted than it appears, and the government’s decision to privatise may cause more issues rather than actually providing a solution.

Alongside inefficiency and avoidable expenses, the unions established to protect workers against exploitation are sadly part of the problem for Wapda. Granted, workers reap the benefits of being part of strong labour unions, but at the expense of making important decisions in the company. Like any other firm under the control of the government, Wapda is overstaffed with workers that are free to do (or not do, as the case may be) their jobs in whatever capacity they want. With privatisation, redundancies are a very distinct possibility, and for good reason.

However, there is also the very serious problem of the Hydel-thermal ratio, which should ideally be 70:30 percent but is lopsided at this point. Already, the Kot Addu thermal station has been privatized and if more and more thermal power stations receive the same fate, there is very real concern that the IPP jurisdiction will expand and circular debt will become a bigger monster as privatization will lead to more and more expensive thermal power (not to mention, more and more corrupt bureaucrats making money from imported oil). Perhaps the solution then, is not to privatise, but to develop Wapda hydel as fast as possible in order to guarantee much cheaper electricity per unit.

The issue begs a number of questions: Will only private investors be sufficiently motivated to supply this service, or will they be motivated for the wrong reasons (which could be potentially drastic for the economy, since we are dealing with the provision of a public utility). Will hydel power be significantly reduced and ignored during privatization in favour of more expensive and imported thermal power? Does Wapda have the means to strike a balance, or will it be one or the other?