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A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Privatization of Canadian National Railway

  • Anthony E. Boardman
  • Claude Laurin
  • Mark A. Moore
  • Aidan R. Vining

This article uses cost-benefit analysis to estimate the welfare gains from the privatization of Canadian National Railway (CN) in November 1995, one of the largest rail privatizations in history. It also shows how these gains have been distributed among consumers, producers, and government, and between Canadians and non-Canadians. The article uses the costs of Canadian Pacific Railway to create a more credible comparison than in previous privatization studies. Based on a conservative counterfactual, we estimate that CN's privatization generated welfare gains of at least $4 billion (in 1992 dollars). However, the welfare gain was possibly as high as $15 billion. The Canadian government captured almost half of these gains, while CN shareholders captured most of the rest.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3138/cpp.35.1.59
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Article provided by University of Toronto Press in its journal Canadian Public Policy.

Volume (Year): 35 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 59-83

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Handle: RePEc:cpp:issued:v:35:y:2009:i:1:p:59-83
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  1. Narjess Boubakri & Jean-Claude Cosset, 1998. "The Financial and Operating Performance of Newly Privatized Firms: Evidence from Developing Countries," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(3), pages 1081-1110, 06.
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  3. Jeffry M. Netter & William L. Megginson, 2001. "From State to Market: A Survey of Empirical Studies on Privatization," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(2), pages 321-389, June.
  4. Mark A. Moore & Anthony E. Boardman & Aidan R. Vining & David L. Weimer & David H. Greenberg, 2004. "“Just give me a number!” Practical values for the social discount rate," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4), pages 789-812.
  5. Leroy P. Jones & Pankaj Tandon & Ingo Vogelsang, 1990. "Selling Public Enterprises: A Cost/Benefit Methodology," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262600625, June.
  6. Pollitt, M. & Smith, A.S.J., 2001. "The Restructuring and Privatisation of British Rail: Was it really that bad?," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0118, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  7. De Alessi, Louis, 1969. "Implications of Property Rights for Government Investment Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(1), pages 13-24, March.
  8. Wallsten, Scott J, 2001. "An Econometric Analysis of Telecom Competition, Privatization, and Regulation in Africa and Latin America," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 1-19, March.
  9. Ephraim W. Chirwa, 2004. "Industry and firm effects of privatization in Malawian oligopolistic manufacturing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 277-289, 06.
  10. De Fraja, Giovanni, 1991. "Efficiency and Privatisation in Imperfectly Competitive Industries," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(3), pages 311-21, March.
  11. Laurin, Claude & Bozec, Yves, 2001. "Privatization and productivity improvement: the case of Canadian National," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 355-374, November.
  12. Boardman, Anthony E & Vining, Aidan R, 1989. "Ownership and Performance in Competitive Environments: A Comparison of the Performance of Private, Mixed, and State-Owned Enterprises," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 1-33, April.
  13. Claude Laurin & Anthony E. Boardman & Aidan R. Vining, 2004. "Government Underpricing of Share-Issue Privatizations," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 75(3), pages 399-429, 09.
  14. Caves, Douglas W & Christensen, Laurits R, 1980. "The Relative Efficiency of Public and Private Firms in a Competitive Environment: The Case of Canadian Railroads," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(5), pages 958-76, October.
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