A new era of regulations may commence in the country as, in a very strange move that may have a long-lasting impact on the economy of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan has transferred the administrative controls of top five regulators of the country to the respective divisions. The name of regulatory authorities that have been transferred are;
- National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA)
- Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA)
- Frequency Allocation Board (FAB)
- Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA)
- Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA)
From now onwards, NEPRA will start reporting to water and power division, PTA and FAB to Information Technology & Telecom Division, OGRA to Petroleum and Natural Resources Division and PPRA to Finance Division.
In a way, ministers of the respective divisions have now become more powerful and influential regarding the affairs of industries.
The directive, a copy of which rests with MORE, says that In terms of rule 3 (3) of the Rules of Business 1973, the Prime Minister has been pleased to transfer administrative control of the Regulatory authorities from Cabinet Division to the Divisions.
Similar to other regulators, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has been brought under the complete control of Ministry of IT and Telecom which works under Ms. Anusha Rahman, a more vibrant minister of state in the PML-N camp who, apart from IT&T, looks after several other affairs for the government.
While talking to MORE, official spokesperson of the Ministry of IT&T, Saghir Anwer Wattoo called this new decision very timely and healthy for the entire sector.
“The basic task of the ministry is to formulate the policy, however, with a regulator having another reporting line, implementation phase has always been less than seamless. Under this new regime, policy making and implementation will be efficient through,” Watto described.
“The regulator will be answerable in a better way, and the ministry will have the capacity to become more result oriented. For the foreign investors, this one window operation will be more business friendly”, Wattoo added further.
However, several telecom industry stakeholders showed reservation on the decision. Former USF CEO and Telecom Expert, Parvez Iftikhar exhibited surprise and expressed unhappiness over the decision.
“Across the world, the regulators are always autonomous, and this is what we have been taking credit for. We have always been exemplified for maintaining a level playing field in the telecom sector through an independent regulator and a separate policy maker,” Iftikhar said
“an independent regulator is always stronger and fierce regarding policy enforcement. The new regime might not be very investment friendly”, Iftikhar cautiously commented.
A PTA official on the condition of anonymity expressed concern over the decision.
“All our affairs will be routed through Ministry of IT&T for which we have always reported the cabinet. It could severely impact our decision making and performance,” the official responded.
It is interesting to note that UAE’s Etisalat manages the affairs of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) being the owner of 26% of shares. However, the government of Pakistan owns the majority of its stakes in addition to Ufone, which also runs as the subsidiary of PTCL.
Regulating a sector with the ownership stakes in the shape of a couple of operators raises serious questions for the new regulator cum policy maker.