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Privatization (or privatisation in British English) can mean different things including moving something from the public sector into the private sector. It is also sometimes used as a synonym for deregulation when a heavily regulated private company or industry becomes less regulated. Government functions and services may also be privatised (which may also be known as "franchising" or "out-sourcing"); in this case, private entities are tasked with the implementation of government programs or performance of government services that had previously been the purview of state-run agencies. Some examples include revenue collection, law enforcement, water supply, and prison management.[1]

Another definition is the purchase of all outstanding shares of a publicly traded company by private investors, or the sale of a state-owned enterprise or municipally owned corporation to private investors. In the case of a for-profit company, the shares are then no longer traded at a stock exchange, as the company became private through private equity; in the case the partial or full sale of a state-owned enterprise or municipally owned corporation to private owners shares may be traded in the public market for the first time, or for the first time since an enterprise's previous nationalization. The second such type of privatization is the demutualization of a mutual organization, cooperative, or public-private partnership in order to form a joint-stock company.[2]

Etymology

The Economist magazine introduced the term "privatisation" (alternatively "privatisation" or "reprivatisation" after the German Reprivatisierung) during the 1930s when it covered Nazi Germany's economic policy.[3][4] It is not clear if the magazine coincidentally invented the word in English or if the term is a loanword from the same expression in German, where it has been in use since the 19th century.[5]

Definition

The word privatization may mean different things depending on the context in which it is used. It can mean moving something from the public sphere into the private sphere, but it may also be used to describe something that was always private, but heavily regulated, which becomes less regulated through a process of deregulation. The term may also be used descriptively for something that has always been private, but could be public in other jurisdictions.[6]

There are also private entities that may perform public functions. These entities could also be described as privatized. Privatization may mean the government sells state-owned businesses to private interests, but it may also be discussed in the context of the privatization of services or government functions, where private entities are tasked with the implementation of government programs or performance of government services. Gillian E. Metzger has written that: "Private entities [in the US] provide a vast array of social services for the government; administer core aspects of government programs; and perform tasks that appear quintessentially governmental, such as promulgating standards or regulating third-party activities." Metzger mentions an expansion of privatization that includes health and welfare programs, public education, and prisons.[7]

History

Pre-20th century

The history of privatization dates from Ancient Greece, when governments contracted out almost everything to the private sector.[8] In the Roman Republic private individuals and companies performed the majority of services including tax collection (tax farming), army supplies (military contractors), religious sacrifices and construction. However, the Roman Empire also created state-owned enterprises—for example, much of the grain was eventually produced on estates owned by the Emperor. David Parker and David S. Saal suggest that the cost of bureaucracy was one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire.[8]

Perhaps one of the first ideological movements towards privatization came during China's golden age of the Han Dynasty. Taoism came into prominence for the first time at a state level, and it advocated the laissez-faire principle of Wu wei (無為), literally meaning "do nothing".[9] The rulers were counseled by the Taoist clergy that a strong ruler was virtually invisible.

During the Renaissance, most of Europe was still by and large following the feudal economic model. By contrast, the Ming dynasty in China began once more to practice privatization, especially with regards to their manufacturing industries. This was a reversal of the earlier Song dynasty policies, which had themselves overturned earlier policies in favor of more rigorous state control.[10]

In Britain, the privatization of common lands is referred to as enclosure (in Scotland as the Lowland Clearances and the Highland Clearances). Significant privatizations of this nature occurred from 1760 to 1820, preceding the industrial revolution in that country.

20th century onwards

There are five main methods[citation needed] of privatization:

  1. Share issue privatization: shares sale on the stock market.
  2. Asset sale privatization: asset divestiture to a strategic investor, usually by auction or through the Treuhand model.
  3. Voucher privatization: distribution of vouchers, which represent part ownership of a corporation, to all citizens, usually for free or at a very low price.
  4. Privatization from below: start of new private businesses in formerly socialist countries.
  5. Management buyout or employee buyout: distribution of shares for free or at a very low price to workers or management of the organization.

The choice of sale method is influenced by the capital market and the political and firm-specific factors. Privatization through the stock market is more likely to be the method used when there is an established capital market capable of absorbing the shares. A market with high liquidity can facilitate the privatization. If the capital markets are insufficiently developed, however, it would be difficult to find enough buyers. The shares may have to be underpriced, and the sales may not raise as much capital as would be justified by the fair value of the company being privatized. Many governments, therefore, elect for listings in more sophisticated markets, for example, Euronext, and the London, New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

Governments in developing countries and transition countries more often resort to direct asset sales to a few investors, partly because those countries do not yet have a stock market with high capital.

Voucher privatization occurred mainly in the transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Additionally, privatization from below had made important contribution to economic growth in transition economies.

In one study assimilating some of the literature on "privatization" that occurred in Russian and Czech Republic transition economies, the authors identified three methods of privatization: "privatization by sale", "mass privatization", and "mixed privatization". Their calculations showed that "mass privatization" was the most effective method.[21]

However, in economies "characterized by shortages" and maintained by the state bureaucracy, wealth was accumulated and concentrated by "gray/black market" operators. Privatizing industries by sale to these individuals did not mean a transition to "effective private sector owners [of former] state assets". Rather than mainly participating in a market economy, these individuals could prefer elevating their personal status or prefer accumulating political power. Instead, outside foreign investment led to the efficient conduct of former state assets in the private sector and market economy.[21]

Through privatization by direct asset sale or the stock market, bidders compete to offer higher prices, generating more revenue for the state. Voucher privatization, on the other hand, could represent a genuine transfer of assets to the general population, creating a sense of participation and inclusion. A market could be created if the government permits transfer of vouchers among voucher holders.

Secured borrowing

Some privatization transactions can be interpreted as a form of a secured loan[22][23] and are criticized as a "particularly noxious form of governmental debt".[22] In this interpretation, the upfront payment from the privatization sale corresponds to the principal amount of the loan, while the proceeds from the underlying asset correspond to secured interest payments – the transaction can be considered substantively the same as a secured loan, though it is structured as a sale.[22] This interpretation is particularly argued to apply to recent municipal transactions in the United States, particularly for fixed term, such as the 2008 sale of the proceeds from Chicago parking meters for 75 years. It is argued that this is motivated by "politicians' desires to borrow money surreptitiously",[22] due to legal restrictions on and political resistance to alternative sources of revenue, viz, raising taxes or issuing debt.

Results of privatization

Privatization had different outcomes around the world. Results of privatization may vary depending on the privatization model employed.[24] According to Dr Irwin Stelzer, "it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to separate the effects of privatisation from the effects of such things as trends in the economy".[25]

According to research performed by the World Bank[26] and William L. Megginson[27] in the early 2000s, privatization in competitive industries with well-informed consumers, consistently improved efficiency. According to APEC, the more competitive the industry, the greater the improvement in output, profitability, and efficiency.[28] Such efficiency gains mean a one-off increase in GDP, but through improved incentives to innovate and reduce costs also tend to raise the rate of economic growth.[citation needed]

More recent research and literature review performed by Professor Saul Estrin and Adeline Pelletier concluded that "the literature now reflects a more cautious and nuanced evaluation of privatization" and that "private ownership alone is no longer argued to automatically generate economic gains in developing economies".[29]

Great Britain privatized its steel industry in the 1950s, and the West German government embarked on large-scale privatization, including sale of the majority stake in Volkswagen to small investors in public share offerings in 1961.[8] However, it was in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States that privatization gained worldwide momentum. Notable privatization attempts in the UK included privatization of Britoil (1982), Amersham International PLC (1982), British Telecom (1984), Sealink ferries (1984), British Petroleum (gradually privatized between 1979 and 1987), British Aerospace (1985 to 1987), British Gas (1986), Rolls-Royce (1987), Rover Group (formerly British Leyland, 1988), British Steel Corporation (1988), and the regional water authorities (mostly in 1989). After 1979, council house tenants in the UK were given the right to buy their homes (at a heavily discounted rate). One million purchased their residences by 1986.

Such efforts culminated in 1993 when British Rail was privatized under Thatcher's successor, John Major. British Rail had been formed by prior nationalization of private rail companies. The privatization was controversial, and the its impact is still debated today, as doubling of passenger numbers and investment was balanced by an increase in rail subsidy.[12]

Privatization in Latin America flourished in the 1980s and 1990s as a result of a Western liberal economic policy. Companies providing public services such as water management, transportation, and telecommunication were rapidly sold off to the private sector. In the 1990s, privatization revenue from 18 Latin American countries totaled 6% of gross domestic product.[13] Private investment in infrastructure from 1990 and 2001 reached $360.5 billion, $150 billion more than in the next emerging economy.[13]

While economists generally give favorable evaluations of the impact of privatization in Latin America,[14] opinion polls and public protests across the countries suggest that a large segment of the public is dissatisfied with or have negative views of privatization in the region.[15]

In the 1990s, the governments in Eastern and Central Europe engaged in extensive privatization of state-owned enterprises in Eastern and Central Europe and Russia, with assistance from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the German Treuhand, and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

Ongoing privatization of Japan Post relates to that of the national postal service and one of the largest banks in the world. After years of debate, the privatization of Japan Post spearheaded by Junichiro Koizumi finally started in 2007. The privatization process is expected[by whom?] to last until 2017. Japan Post was one of the nation's largest employers, as one-third of Japanese state employees worked for it. It was also said to be the largest holder of personal savings in the world. Criticisms against Japan Post were that it served as a channel of corruption and was inefficient. In September 2003, Koizumi's cabinet proposed splitting Japan Post into four separate companies: a bank, an insurance company, a postal service company, and a fourth company to handle the post offices and retail storefronts of the other three. After the Upper House rejected privatization, Koizumi scheduled nationwide elections for September 11, 2005. He declared the election to be a referendum on postal privatization. Koizumi subsequently won the election, gaining the necessary supermajority and a mandate for reform, and in October 2005, the bill was passed to privatize Japan Post in 2007.[16]

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone's privatization in 1987 involved the largest share offering in financial history at the time.[17] 15 of the world's 20 largest public share offerings have been privatizations of telecoms.[17]

In 1988, the perestroika policy of Mikhail Gorbachev started allowing privatization of the centrally planned economy. Large privatization of the Soviet economy occurred over the next few years as the country dissolved. Other Eastern Bloc countries followed suit after the Revolutions of 1989 introduced non-communist governments.

The United Kingdom's largest public share offerings were privatizations of British Telecom and British Gas during the 1980s under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, when many state-run firms were sold off to the private sector. The privatization received very mixed views from the public and the parliament. Even former Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan was critical of the policy, likening it to "selling the family silver".[18] There were around 3 million shareholders in Britain when Thatcher took office in 1979, but the subsequent sale of state-run firms saw the number of shareholders double by 1985. By the time of her resignation in 1990, there were more than 10 million shareholders in Britain.[19]

The largest public shares offering in France involved France Télécom.

Egypt undertook widespread privatization under Hosni Mubarak. Following his overthrow in the 2011 revolution, most of the public began to call for re-nationalization, citing allegations of the privatized firms practicing crony capitalism under the old regime.[20]

There are five main methods[citation needed] of privatization:

  1. Share issue privatization: shares sale on the stock market.
  2. Asset sale privatization: asset divestiture to a strategic investor, usually by auction or through the Treuhand model.
  3. Voucher privatization: distribution of vouchers, which represent part ownership of a corporation, to all citizens, usually for free or at a very low price.
  4. Privatization from below: start of new private businesses in formerly socialist countries.
  5. Management buyout or employee buyout: distribution of shares for free or at a very low price to workers or management of the organization.

The choice of sale method is influenced by the capital market and the political and firm-specific factors. Privatization through the stock market is more likely to be the method used when there is an established capital market capable of absorbing the shares. A market with high liquidity can facilitate the privatization. If the capita

The choice of sale method is influenced by the capital market and the political and firm-specific factors. Privatization through the stock market is more likely to be the method used when there is an established capital market capable of absorbing the shares. A market with high liquidity can facilitate the privatization. If the capital markets are insufficiently developed, however, it would be difficult to find enough buyers. The shares may have to be underpriced, and the sales may not raise as much capital as would be justified by the fair value of the company being privatized. Many governments, therefore, elect for listings in more sophisticated markets, for example, Euronext, and the London, New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

Governments in developing countries and transition countries more often resort to direct asset sales to a few investors, partly because those countries do not yet have a stock market with high capital.

Voucher privatization occurred mainly in the transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Additionally, privatization from below had made important contribution to economic growth in transition economies.

In one study assimilating some of the literature on "privatization" that occurred in Russian and Czech Republic transition economies, the authors identified three methods of privatization: "privatization by sale", "mass privatization", and "mixed privatization". Their calculations showed that "mass privatization" was the most effective method.[21]

However, in economies "characterized by shortages" and maintained by the state bureaucracy, wealth was accumulated and concentrat

Governments in developing countries and transition countries more often resort to direct asset sales to a few investors, partly because those countries do not yet have a stock market with high capital.

Voucher privatization occurred mainly in the transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Additionally, privatization from below had made important contribution to economic growth in transition economies.

In one study assimilating some of the literature on "privatization" that occurred in Russian and Czech Republic transition economies, the authors identified three methods of privatization: "privatization by sale", "mass privatization", and "mixed privatization". Their calculations showed that "mass privatization" was the most effective method.[21]

However, in economies "characterized by shortages" and maintained by the state bureaucracy, wealth was accumulated and concentrated by "gray/black market" operators. Privatizing industries by sale to these individuals did not mean a transition to "effective private sector owners [of former] state assets". Rather than mainly participating in a market economy, these individuals could prefer elevating their personal status or prefer accumulating political power. Instead, outside foreign investment led to the efficient conduct of former state assets in the private sector and market economy.[21]

Through privatization by direct asset sale or the stock market, bidders compete to offer higher prices, generating more revenue for the state. Voucher privatization, on the other hand, could represent a genuine transfer of assets to the general population, creating a sense of participation and inclusion. A market could be created if the government permits transfer of vouchers among voucher holders.

Some privatization transactions can be interpreted as a form of a secured loan[22][23] and are criticized as a "particularly noxious form of governmental debt".[22] In this interpretation, the upfront payment from the privatization sale corresponds to the principal amount of the loan, while the proceeds from the underlying asset correspond to secured interest payments – the transaction can be considered substantively the same as a secured loan, though it is structured as a sale.[22] This interpretation is particularly argued to apply to recent municipal transactions in the United States, particularly for fixed term, such as the 2008 sale of the proceeds from Chicago parking meters for 75 years. It is argued that this is motivated by "politicians' desires to borrow money surreptitiously",[22] due to legal restrictions on and political resistance to alternative sources of revenue, viz, raising taxes or issuing debt.

Results of privatization

Studies show that private market factors can more efficiently deliver many goods or service than governments due to free market competition.[26][27][28] Over time, this tends to lead to lower prices, improved quality, more choices, less corruption, less red tape, and/or quicker delivery. Many proponents do not argue that everything should be privatized. According to them, market failures and natural monopolies could be problematic. However, anarcho-capitalists prefer that every function of the state be privatized, including defense and dispute resolution.[45&#

Studies show that private market factors can more efficiently deliver many goods or service than governments due to free market competition.[26][27][28] Over time, this tends to lead to lower prices, improved quality, more choices, less corruption, less red tape, and/or quicker delivery. Many proponents do not argue that everything should be privatized. According to them, market failures and natural monopolies could be problematic. However, anarcho-capitalists prefer that every function of the state be privatized, including defense and dispute resolution.[45]

Proponents of privatization make the following arguments:

  • Performance: state-run industries tend to be bureaucratic. A political government may only be motivated to improve a function when its poor performance be

    Proponents of privatization make the following arguments:

    Opponents of certain privatizations believe that certain public goods and services should remain primarily in the hands of government in order to ensure that everyone in society has access to them (such as law enforcement, basic health care, and basic education). There is a positive externality when the government provides society at large with public goods and services such as defense and disease control. Some national constitutions in effect define their governments' "core businesses" as being the provision of such things as justice, tranquility, defense, and general welfare. These governments' direct provision of security, stability, and safety, is intended to be done for the common good (in the public interest) with a long-term (for posterity) perspective. As for natural monopolies, opponents of privatization claim that they aren't subject to fair competition, and better administrated by the state.

    Although private companies will provide a similar good or service alongside the government, opponents of privatization are careful about completely transferring the provision of public goods, services and assets into private hands for the following reasons:

    • Performance: a democratically elected government is accountable to the people through a legislature, Congress or Parliament, and is motivated to safeguarding the assets of the nation. The profit motive may be subordinated to social objectives.
    • Improvements: the government is motivated to performance improvements as well run businesses contribute to the State's revenues.
    • Corruption: government ministers and civil servants are bound to uphold the highest ethical standards, and standards of probity are guaranteed through codes of conduct and declarations of interest. However, the selling process could lack transparency, allowing the purchaser and civil servants controlling the sale to gain personally.
    • Accountability: the public has less control and oversight of private companies.
    • Civil-liberty concerns: a democratically elected government is accountable to the people through a parliament, and can intervene when civil liberties are threatened.
    • Goals: the government may seek to use state companies as instruments to further social goals for the benefit of the nation as a whole.
    • Capital: governments can raise money in the financial markets most cheaply to re-lend to state-owned enterprises.
    • Cuts in essential services: if a government-owned company providing an essential service (such as the water supply) to all citizens is privatized, its new owner(s) could lead to the abandoning of the social obligation to those who are less able to pay, or to regions where this service is unprofitable.
    • Natural monopolies: privatization will not result in true competition if a natural monopoly exists.
    • Concentration of wealth: profits from successful enterprises end up in private, often foreign, hands instead of being available for the common good.
    • Political influence: governments may more easily exert pressure on state-owned firms to help implementing government policy.
    • Profit: private companies do not have any goal other than to maximize profits. A private company will serve the needs of those who are most willing (and able) to pay, as opposed to the needs of the majority, and are thus anti-democratic. The more necessary a good is, the lower the price elasticity of demand, as people will attempt to buy it no matter the price. In the case of a price elasticity of demand of zero (perfectly inelastic good), the demand part of supply and demand theories does not work.
    • Privatization and poverty: it is acknowledged by many studies that there are winners and losers with privatization. The number of losers—which may add up to the size and severity of poverty—can be unexpectedly large if the method and process of privatization and how it is implemented are seriously flawed (e.g. lack of transparency leading to state-owned assets being appropriated at minuscule amounts by those with political connections, absence of regulatory institutions leading to transfer of monopoly rents from public to private sector, improper design and inadequate control of the privatization process leading to asset stripping).[47]
    • Job loss: due to the additional financial burden placed on privatized companies to succeed without any government help, unlike the public companies, jobs could be lost to keep more money in the company.
    • Reduced wages and benefits: a 2014 report by In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization,[48] argues that "outsourcing public services sets off a downward spiral in which reduced worker wages and benefits can hurt the local economy and overall stability of middle and working class communities."[49]
    • Inferior quality products: private, for-profit companies might cut corners on providing quality goods and services in order to maximize profit.[50]

    Economic theory

    In economic theory, privatization has been studied in the field of contract theory. When contracts are complete, institutions such as (private or public) property are difficult to explain, since every desired incentive structure can be achieved with sufficiently complex contractual arrangements, regardless of the institutional structure (all that matters is who are the decision makers and what is their available information). In contrast, when contracts are incomplete, institutions matter. A leading application of the incomplete contract paradigm in the context of privatization is the model by Hart, Shleifer, and Vishny (1997).[51] In their model, a manager can make investments to increase quality (but they may also increase costs) and investments to decrease costs (but they may also reduce quality). It turns out that it depends on the particular situation whether private ownership or public ownership is desirable. The Hart-Shleifer-Vishny model has been further developed in various directions, e.g. to allow for mixed public-private ownership and endogenous assignments of the investment tasks.[52]

    See also

    • Corporatization
    • Equitisation
    • Deregulation
    • Private prison
    • Private secto

      Although private companies will provide a similar good or service alongside the government, opponents of privatization are careful about completely transferring the provision of public goods, services and assets into private hands for the following reasons:

      In economic theory, privatization has been studied in the field of contract theory. When contracts are complete, institutions such as (private or public) property are difficult to explain, since every desired incentive structure can be achieved with sufficiently complex contractual arrangements, regardless of the institutional structure (all that matters is who are the decision makers and what is their available information). In contrast, when contracts are incomplete, institutions matter. A leading application of the incomplete contract paradigm in the context of privatization is the model by Hart, Shleifer, and Vishny (1997).[51] In their model, a manager can make investments to increase quality (but they may also increase costs) and investments to decrease costs (but they may also reduce quality). It turns out that it depends on the particular situation whether private ownership or public ownership is desirable. The Hart-Shleifer-Vishny model has been further developed in various directions, e.g. to allow for mixed public-private ownership and endogenous assignments of the investment tasks.[52]

      See also

      Notes

      1. ^ Chowdhury, F. L. ‘’Corrupt Bureaucracy and Privatisation of Tax Enforcement’’, 2006: Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka.
      2. ^ "Musselburgh Co-op in crisis as privatization bid fails". Co-operative News. 2005-11-01. Retrieved 2008-05-21.