Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Privatization in Syria:

Yay or Nay?

OK. So this is not a privatization per se. But it's a privatization of a service nonetheless. Ever since I've come to awareness, electric power was a public affair in Syria. Its hallmark being the network of saggy cables strung over huge wooden poles. In fact, one of those gigantic poles were right there in front of our old house. I could almost touch it from the balcony. I still remember noting as a kid that these poles weren't uniform in section nor in height. My father once told me they are shipped from the forested expanses of Europe. The noisy yellow transformers are also a landmark in the landscape of electricity in Syria. With the cautionary "Don't Approach. Risk of Death" signs all over them. ... and of course, the incessant, abrupt, infinite and not-so-eagerly awaited power outages.

I'm conflicted on this. Partly because we know that once the door is opened for private sector to operate public services, there's going to be more opportunities for exploitations. A larger room to hike prices haphazardly. And the possibility that those already employed in the said public sector would lose their jobs.

But I also know that private businesses in a healthy economy are good for employing qualified people and keeping the talent from migrating. Also, all other things being equal, there's a chance for better services, less breakdowns, more stable voltage...etc... And this is of course compared to the performance of government sectors. Government-managed businesses never really took the concept of 'customer service' to heart.

The official reason for this move is given as "private businesses are more dynamic than the government". hmmm. I will reluctantly agree. However, and with all due respect, this is not true for everywhere. Like here in Dubai there's a state-owned company called DEWA. (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.) It's a profitable organization. And I'd rate their services as 'very good' to 'excellent'. What I'm trying to say is that governments can operate a profitable and efficient business. They're not always distined to fail. It's really our fault that we mismanage things, not the fault of the concept itself.

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