Privatization

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Privatization, also spelled privatisation, may have several meanings. Primarily, it is the process of transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency, public service, or public property from the public sector (a government) to the private sector, either to a business that operates for a profit or to a nonprofit organization. It may also mean government outsourcing of services or functions to private firms, e.g. revenue collection, law enforcement, and prison management.[1]

Privatization has also been used to describe two unrelated transactions. The first is the buying of all outstanding shares of a publicly traded company by a single entity, making the company privately owned. This is often described as private equity. The second is a demutualization of a mutual organization or cooperative to form a joint-stock company.[2]

Forms of privatization[edit]

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

  1. Share issue privatization (SIP) - selling shares on the stock market
  2. Asset sale privatization - selling an entire organization (or part of it) to a strategic investor, usually by auction or by using the Treuhand model
  3. Voucher privatization - distributing shares of ownership to all citizens, usually for free or at a very low price.
  4. Privatization from below - Start-up of new private businesses in formerly socialist countries.

Choice of sale method is influenced by the capital market, political, and firm-specific factors. SIPs are more likely to be used when capital markets are less developed or under developed and there is lower income inequality. Share issues can broaden and deepen domestic capital markets, boosting liquidity and (potentially) economic growth, but if the capital markets are insufficiently developed it may be difficult to find enough buyers, and transaction costs (e.g. underpricing required) may be higher. For this reason, many governments elect for listings in the more developed and liquid markets, for example Euronext, and the London, New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges.

As a result of higher political and currency risk deterring foreign investors, asset sales occur more commonly in developing countries.

Voucher privatization has mainly occurred in the transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe, such as Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Additionally, Privatization from below is/has been an important type of economic growth in transition economies.

A substantial benefit of share or asset-sale privatizations is that bidders compete to offer the highest price, creating income for the state in addition to tax revenues. Voucher privatizations, on the other hand, could be a genuine transfer of assets to the general population, creating a real sense of participation and inclusion. If the transfer of vouchers is permitted, a market in vouchers could be created, with companies offering to pay money for them.

Secured borrowing[edit]

Some privatization transactions can be interpreted as a form of a secured loan[3][4] and are criticized as a "particularly noxious form of governmental debt".[3] 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.[3] 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",[3] due to legal restrictions on and political resistance to alternative sources of revenue, viz, raising taxes or issuing debt.

Etymology[edit]

The Economist magazine introduced the term in the 1930s in covering Nazi German economic policy.[5][6]

History[edit]

The history of privatization dates from Ancient Greece, when governments contracted out almost everything to the private sector.[7] 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. Some scholars suggest that the cost of bureaucracy was one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire.[7]

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".[8] 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.[9]

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, coincident with the industrial revolution in that country.

In more recent times,Winston Churchill's government privatized the British steel industry in the 1950s, and West Germany's government embarked on large-scale privatization, including selling its majority stake in Volkswagen to small investors in a public share offering in 1961.[7] However, it was in the 1980s under the leaderships of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA, that privatization gained worldwide momentum. Notable privatizations in the UK under Thatcher included Britoil (1982), Amersham International PLC ( 1982), British Petroleum (gradually privatized between 1979 and 1987), British Aerospace (1985 to 1987), British Gas (1986), Rover Group (formerly British Leyland; 1988), British Steel (1988), British Telecom (1984), Sealink ferries (1984), Rolls-Royce (1987) and the regional water authorities (mostly in 1989). After 1979, council house tenants in the UK were given the right to buy their homes; one million had done so by 1986.

In the UK this culminated in the 1993 privatization of British Rail under Thatcher's successor, John Major; British Rail having been formed by prior nationalization of private rail companies.

Privatization in Latin America flourished in the 1980s and 90's as a result of Western liberal economic policy. Public resources, including water management, transport systems and national telecommunication companies, were sold off to the private sector more rapidly than in almost any part of the world. In the 1990s, privatization revenue from 18 Latin American countries totalled 6% of gross domestic product or GDP.[10] Private investment in infrastructure, between 1990 and 2001, reached $360.5 billion, $150 billion more than the next emerging economy.[10] While the evaluation of privatization in Latin America by economists is generally favourable,[11] opinion polls and public protests across the country suggest the vast majority of citizens are dissatisfied with or have negative views of privatization in the region.[12]

Significant privatization of state owned enterprises in Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union was undertaken in the 1990s with assistance from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the German Treuhand, and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

A major ongoing privatization, that of Japan Post, involves the Japanese post service and the largest bank in the world. This privatization, spearheaded by Junichiro Koizumi, started in 2007 following generations of debate. The privatization process is expected[by whom?] to last until 2017. Japan Post was the nation's largest employer and one third of all Japanese government employees worked for Japan Post. Japan Post was often said to be the largest holder of personal savings in the world. Japan Post was thought to be inefficient and a source for corruption. In September 2003, Prime Minister Junichiro 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 as 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 this election, gaining the necessary supermajority and a mandate for reform, and in October 2005, the bill was passed to privatize Japan Post in 2007.[13]

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone's privatization in 1987 involved the largest share-offering in financial history at the time.[14] 15 of the world's 20 largest public share offerings have been privatizations of telecoms.[14]

In 1988, the Perestroika policy of Mikhail Gorbachev started allowing private enterprise in the previous centrally-planned and government-owned economy of the Soviet Union. This began a massive privatization of the Soviet economy over the next few years as the country dissolved. Other Eastern Bloc countries followed suit after the Revolutions of 1989 brought them 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. This attracted very mixed views from the public and parliament, and even a former Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillan, was critical of the policy; likening it to "selling the family silver".[15] There were around 3,000,000 shareholders in Britain when Thatcher took office in 1979, but the subsequent sale of state-run firms saw the level of shareholders double to 6,000,000 by 1985 and by the time of her resignation as prime minister in 1990 there were more than 10,000,000 shareholders in Britain.[16]

The largest public-share offering in France was France Télécom.

Egypt undertook widespread privatization under President Hosni Mubarak. After his overthrow in the 2011 revolution, the association of the newly private businesses with the crony capitalism of the old regime along with the new look at long-festering labor and police-state issues have led to calls for re-nationalization.[17]

Results[edit]

Literature reviews[18][19] find that in competitive industries with well-informed consumers, privatization consistently improves efficiency. The more competitive the industry, the greater the improvement in output, profitability, and efficiency.[20] 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. Although typically there are many costs associated with these efficiency gains,[21] many economists argue that these can be dealt with by appropriate government support through redistribution and perhaps retraining. Yet, some empirical literature suggests that privatization could also have very modest effects on efficiency and quite regressive distributive impact. In a first attempt at a social welfare analysis of the British privatization program under the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major during the 1980s and 1990s, Massimo Florio points to the absence of any productivity shock resulting strictly from ownership change. Instead, the impact on the previously-nationalized companies of the UK productivity leap under the Conservatives varied in different industries- in some cases it occurred prior to privatization, and in other cases it occurred on privatization or several years afterwards.[22]

Privatizations in Russia and Latin America were accompanied by large-scale corruption during the sale of the state-owned companies. Those with political connections unfairly gained large wealth, which has discredited privatization in these regions. While media have reported widely the grand corruption that accompanied the sales, studies have argued that in addition to increased operating efficiency, daily petty corruption is, or would be, larger without privatization, and that corruption is more prevalent in non-privatized sectors. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that extralegal and unofficial activities are more prevalent in countries that privatized less.[23] A 2009 study published in The Lancet medical journal estimated that as many as 1,000,000 working men died as a result of economic shocks associated with mass privatization in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe during the 1990s.[24][25]

In Latin American, there is a discrepancy between the economic efficiency of privatization and the political/social ramifications that occur. On the one hand, economic indicators, including firm profitability, productivity and growth, project positive microeconomic results.[10] On the other hand, however, these results have largely been met with a negative criticism and citizen coalitions. This neoliberal criticism highlights the on-going conflict between varying visions of economic development. Karl Polanyi emphasizes the societal concerns of self-regulating markets through a concept known as a "double movement". In essence, whenever societies move towards increasingly unrestrained, free-market rule, a natural and inevitable societal correction emerges to undermine the contradictions of capitalism. This was the case in the 2000 Cochabamba protests.

Privatization in Latin America has invariably experienced increasing push-back from the public. Some suggest that implementing a less efficient but more politically mindful approach could be more sustainable.[26]

In India, a survey by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) —Utilization of Free Medical Services by Children Belonging to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in Private Hospitals in New Delhi, 2011-12: A Rapid Appraisal—indicates under-utilization of the free beds available for EWS category in private hospitals in Delhi, though they were allotted land at subsidized rates.[27]

Opinion[edit]

Arguments for and against the controversial subject of privatization are presented here.

Support[edit]

Studies show that private market factors can more efficiently deliver many goods or service than governments due to free market competition.[18][19][20] 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.

Proponents of privatization[who?] make the following arguments:

Opposition[edit]

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. Likewise, private goods and services should remain in the hands of the private sector.

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:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  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. 
  3. ^ a b c d Roin, Julie. "Privatization and the Sale of Tax Revenues". SSRN eLibrary. Retrieved 2011-07-27, also published as "Privatization and the Sale of Tax Revenues" in Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 85, p. 1965, 2011, and U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 560 
  4. ^ U. of C. professor argues privatization of public assets just like borrowing money, July 22, 2011, Chicago Tribune, Ameet Sachdev's Chicago Law, Ameet Sachdev
  5. ^ Edwards, Ruth Dudley (1995). The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843-1993. Harvard Business School Press. p. 946. ISBN 0-87584-608-4. 
  6. ^ Compare Bel, Germà (2006). "Retrospectives: The Coining of 'Privatisation' and Germany's National Socialist Party". Journal of Economic Perspectives 20 (3): 187–194. doi:10.1257/jep.20.3.187. 
  7. ^ a b c International Handbook on Privatization by David Parker, David S. Saal
  8. ^ Li & Zheng 2001, p. 241
  9. ^ Bouye, Thomas M., Manslaughter, markets, and moral economy
  10. ^ a b c "Privatization in Latin America: The rapid rise, recent fall, and continuing puzzle of a contentious economic policy" by John Nellis, Rachel Menezes, Sarah Lucas. Center for Global Development Policy Brief, Jan 2004, p. 1.
  11. ^ "The Distributive Impact of Privatization in Latin America: Evidence from Four Countries" by David McKenzie, Dilip Mookherjee, Gonzalo Castañeda and Jaime Saavedra. Brookings Institution Press, 2008, p. 162.
  12. ^ "Why is Sector Reform So Unpopular in Latin America?" by Mary Shirley. The Ronald Coase Institute Working Papers, 2004, pg. 1.
  13. ^ Takahara, "All eyes on Japan Post"Faiola, Anthony (2005-10-15). "Japan Approves Postal Privatization". Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). p. A10. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  14. ^ a b The Financial Economics of Privatisation By William L. Megginson, p. 205 - 206
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ "Thatcher years in graphics". BBC News. 2005-11-18. 
  17. ^ Amos, Deborah, "In Egypt, Revolution Moves Into The Factories", NPR, April 20, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-20.
  18. ^ a b "Privatisation in Competitive Sectors: The Record to Date, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 2860". John Nellis and Sunita Kikeri (World Bank). June 2002. SSRN 636224. 
  19. ^ a b "From State To Market: A Survey Of Empirical Studies On Privatisation" (PDF). William L. Megginson and Jeffry M. Netter (Journal of Economic Literature). June 2001. 
  20. ^ a b "Privatising State-owned Enterprises". 2010-02-22. p. 9. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  21. ^ "Winners and Losers: Assessing the Distributional Impact of Privatisation, CGD Working Paper No 6" (PDF). Nancy Birdsall & John Nellis (Center for Global Development). March 9, 2006. 
  22. ^ FLORIO Massimo – “The Great Divestiture: Evaluating the Welfare Impact of the British Privatizations, 1979-1997” (MIT Press, 2004). Book review by William L. Megginson, Journal of Economic Literature, Vo. XLIV (March 2006) p. 172.
  23. ^ Privatisation in Competitive Sectors: The Record to Date. Sunita Kikeri and John Nellis. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2860, June 2002. Privatisation and Corruption. David Martimort and Stéphane Straub.
  24. ^ "Death surge linked with mass privatisation". University of Oxford. 2009. Retrieved 2013-11-07. 
  25. ^ Privatisation 'raised death rate'. BBC, 15 January 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  26. ^ "Why is Sector Reform So Unpopular in Latin America?" by Mary Shirley. The Ronald Coase Institute Working Paper, 2004, p. 1.
  27. ^ Perappadan, Bindu shajan (August 17, 2013). "Private hospitals shun destitute children". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  28. ^ Central Europe's Mass-Production Privatization, Heritage Lecture #352
  29. ^ Dagdeviren (2006) "Revisiting privatisation in the context of poverty alleviation" Journal of International Development, Vol. 18, 469–488
  30. ^ David Moberg (6 June 2014). Privatizing Government Services Doesn’t Only Hurt Public Workers. In These Times. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  31. ^ Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class. In the Public Interest, 3 June 2014. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  32. ^ Joshua Holland (17 July 2014). How a Bogus, Industry-Funded Study Helped Spur a Privatization Disaster in Michigan. Moyers & Company. Retrieved 20 July 2014.

References[edit]

Unindexed

External links[edit]