Are We Discussing the Real Questions?

Guest Post by Aarya Nijat, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Afghanistan

The last plenary session focused on the nature, role and potential of the private sector from a regional perspective. Many novel ideas were shared and defended: The need to channel, target and tap into investment from diaspora for which there is increasing interest; the increasing cost of elections as one area where a public private partnership is formed, by default; the private sector’s unhealthy competition with the public sector for instance in the air transportation sector; the need to create an inclusive public dialog space to include the private sector; the question of entrepreneurship promotion given the entrepreneurial nature of the South Asian population; the need to work on the regional visa regime; the need to learn from other regions such as the South East Asian region and be more open than protective; and the multiplicity of regulatory bodies and the lack of sufficient regulation.

A couple of observations:
To begin with, this discussion is stuck with ideals with relatively less attention to the consequences of each ideal. For example, the panelists spoke of the role of private sector while at the same time complaining about the chronic capitalism. If the region promotes the private sector, or what the moderator termed as the national bourgeoisie then chronic capitalism is going to be the result. Irrespective of the term, be it private sector, entrepreneurship or national bourgeoisie, all would promote capitalism and which eventually, for the love of the resource which we all are after, lead to chronic capitalism.

Secondly this discussion is full of internal contradictions. I don’t see how promoting the private sector can go hand in hand with sufficient regulation. If the public sector is regulating the private sector then it would rationally not promote it, would not create spaces for public dialogue that can be inclusive of the private sector and would not help the private sector enter into a healthy competition with the public sector. How in the world can the private sector compete, in a healthy way, with the very public sector that regulates it?

Is the public and private sectors pursue similar interests or goals, if you will? What is it that the two share in terms of their sense of purpose, upon which a potential partnership can be built? Why don’t we talk about this?

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