Citizens’ perceptions of urban public services

Social Policy and Development Centre


This research report summarises how urban citizens in Pakistan rate and perceive six public services: water, sewerage, public hospitals, public transport, and law and order sectors. It explores access, quality and reliability of service provision; problems encountered; and responsiveness of service providers in addressing these problems. The information gathered in this report may be useful for service providers, urban planners, sectoral policy makers, regulatory bodies and for civil society.

The Social Policy and Development Centre conducted an urban citizen’s perception survey on public service delivery in 2015. The report draws on data from 4282 respondents in 4000 households, across four provinces and from a range of municipal corporations, municipal committees and town committees  in Pakistan.

Around half the respondents in Punjab, Kyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan believe that the local or municipal services have improved to a certain extent during the last five years. The percentage of respondents who indicated a deteriorating situation is the highest in Sindh followed by Balochistan. The majority (excluding Balochistan) cite garbage collection and disposal as the highest priority, while improvement in quality and quantity of drinking water ranks second. The data challenges the general perception that an overwhelming majority of citizens are favourable to elected councillors for the provision of essential public services, with significant levels of respondents in all provinces disagreeing with statements about elected councillors’ ability to effectively communicate to higher authorities or to take complaints or hear reports of problems. A significant percentage of those surveyed disagreed with the statement that the better provision of services is made possible with the help of elected councillors. Around half of respondents in the three provinces where an unelected governance system operates believe an unelected system is better in providing public services mainly due to a non-political environment.

Water: Three reasons for purchasing or getting water from private sources were given by respondents: inadequate supply, low pressure and bad quality. The concern about water quality is most apparent in urban Punjab with almost 50% of respondents noting this, compared with less than 25% of respondents from each other province.

Garbage disposal: A higher proportion of respondents from Punjab (30%) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (24%) noted that their streets are cleaned daily compared to those respondents in Sindh (11%) and Balochistan (1%). This further reflected in responses to whether those surveyed rate the quality of cleanliness in their neighbourhood; over 60% of respondents in both Sindh and Balochistan described the quality of neighbourhood cleanliness as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ compared with less than 50% in both Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Public sewerage: There is significant variation among the provinces in terms of access, to underground drainage channels. Overflows from, and blockage in, public sewerage is the most serious problem facing households in cities.

Public hospitals: Reasons for not visiting government hospitals vary among provinces, however two reasons are mentioned often: ‘preference for private medical facilities’ and ‘not satisfied with doctors’ expertise’. Few households cited distance to public hospitals as an obstacle.

Public transport: The highest incidence of using public transport is noted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (71%) and lowest in Balochistan (25%).

Law and order: A significant proportion of respondents living in Lahore, Sialkot, Peshawar and Quetta note that law and order had improved since the 2013 election. Although, over 85% of respondents in Quetta still believed that the situation is ‘poor’ or ‘extremely poor’. Across all metropolitian/municipal corporations, a significantly high proportion of respondents (at least 75%) agree that the police fail to serve and respect the interest of all citizens, serve the interests of influential groups and/or politicians, and fail to protect the poor and common people.


SPDC. (2016). Citizens' perceptions of urban public services. Research report 97. Karachi: Social Policy and Development Centre.