LIBERALIZATION AND PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES: ORIGINS OF THE DEBATE, CURRENT ISSUES AND CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE
Giuseppe Bognetti () and
Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, 2008, vol. 79, issue 3‐4, 461-485
ABSTRACT*: Public utilities, public enterprises, privatizations, liberalizations and related topics have been the object of far reaching and intense debate among economists, politicians and practitioners for more than a century. Ideas have frequently changed, and practical solutions chosen to manage public utilities have also undergone significant changes over time. Presently we are witnessing a renewed debate on the relative opportunity of public and private enterprise. In the last twenty years privatization and liberalization have dominated the field. The outcome of this process has produced mixed results. Merits and demerits of privatization, liberalization and regulation are reviewed and discussed in the first part of the paper. The second part of the paper provides an overview of the scientific work of CIRIEC related to issues of public enterprises and services of general interest. It refers primarily to relevant research activities done in the International Scientific Commission ‘Public services/Public enterprises’. Over the past two decades CIRIEC contributed some recognized theoretical and empirical studies dealing with the functioning, governance and reform of public enterprises, based on an international perspective. Theoretical arguments and empirical findings put forward in this paper leads to the conclusion, that the often stated dominant position against public enterprises is not at all convincing. In order to arrive at a fair and valid evaluation of public utilities, it is indispensable to look more closely to the particular circumstances of the technological, economic and social environment and the goals of the provision of a concrete service of public interest.
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