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Privatizing Highways in Latin America: Fixing What Went Wrong

Author

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  • Eduardo Engel

    ()

  • Ronald Fischer

    ()

  • Alexander Galetovic

    ()

Abstract

This paper reviews the Latin American experience with highway privatization during the last decade. Based on evidence from Argentina, Colombia and Chile, we find that private financing of new highways freed up fewer public resources than expected because public funds were often diverted to bail out franchise holders. Furthermore, many of the standard benefits of privatization did not materialize because of pervasive contract renegotiations. We argue that the disappointing performance of highway privatization in Latin America was due to two fundamental design flaws. First, countries followed a "privatize now, regulate later" approach. Second, most concessions were awarded as a fixed-term franchise, thereby creating a demand for guarantees and contract renegotiations. This paper also extends our previous work on formal models of highway privatization. We relax the self-financing constraint which ruled out the public provision of highways by assumption, and show that whenever the privatization of a highway is optimal, government transfers are undesirable. Alternatively, if government transfers are optimal, it is always the case that the full public provision of the highway should be preferred over privatization. We also model the role of flexibility and opportunistic behavior in highway concession contracts, and show that, by contrast with its fixed term counterpart, a flexible term franchise provides flexibilitywithout inducing opportunistic behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 2003. "Privatizing Highways in Latin America: Fixing What Went Wrong," ECONOMIA JOURNAL, THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION - LACEA, vol. 0(Fall 2003), pages 129-164, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000425:008677
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 2013. "The Basic Public Finance Of Public–Private Partnerships," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 83-111, February.
    2. Willoughby, Christopher, 2013. "How much can public private partnership really do for urban transport in developing countries?," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 34-55.
    3. Winston, Clifford & Yan, Jia, 2011. "Can privatization of U.S. highways improve motorists' welfare?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 993-1005, August.
    4. Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 2006. "Privatizing Highways in the United States," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 29(1), pages 27-53, September.
    5. Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 2009. "Public-Private Partnerships: when and how," Documentos de Trabajo 257, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    6. J. Luis Guasch & Jean-Jacques Laffont & Stéphane Straub, 2007. "Concessions of infrastructure in Latin America: Government-led renegotiation," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 1267-1294.
    7. Kenneth A. Small, 2009. "Private Provision of Highways: Economic Issues," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(1), pages 11-31, July.
    8. Athias, Laure & Saussier, Stéphane, 2007. "Contractual flexibility or rigidity for public private partnerships? Theory and evidence from infrastructure concession contracts," MPRA Paper 10541, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Francesc Trillas & Miguel A. Montoya, 2011. "The Liberalization of Infrastructures in Latin America," Chapters,in: International Handbook of Network Industries, chapter 22 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. David Martimort & Stephane Straub, 2006. "Privatization and Changes in Corruption Patterns: The Roots of Public Discontent," ESE Discussion Papers 147, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
    11. Martimort, David & Straub, Stéphane, 2009. "Infrastructure privatization and changes in corruption patterns: The roots of public discontent," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 69-84, September.
    12. Rouhani, Omid M. & Niemeier, Debbie & Knittel, Christopher R. & Madani, Kaveh, 2013. "Integrated modeling framework for leasing urban roads: A case study of Fresno, California," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 17-30.
    13. Guasch, J. Luis & Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Straub, Stephane, 2005. "Infrastructure concessions in Latin America : government-led renegotiations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3749, The World Bank.
    14. Athias, Laure & Nunez, Antonio, 2008. "The more the merrier? Number of bidders, information dispersion, renegotiation and winner’s curse in toll road concessions," MPRA Paper 10539, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Clifford Winston & Jia Yan, 2008. "US Highway Privatization and Heterogeneous Preferences," Working Papers 2008-20, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
    16. Calderon, Cesar & Serven, Luis, 2010. "Infrastructure in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5317, The World Bank.
    17. Skrzypacz, Andrzej, 2013. "Auctions with contingent payments — An overview," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 666-675.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    build-operate-and-transfer (BOT); concessions; cost-of-funds; flexibility; franchising; government subsidies; present-value-of-revenue (PVR); regulation; renegotiation;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L91 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Transportation: General

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