IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

To corporatize or not to corporatize (and if so, how?)


  • McDonald, David A.


Governments around the world are increasingly turning to the use of stand-alone, state-owned utilities to deliver core services such as water and electricity. This article reviews the history of such ‘corporatization’ and argues that its recent resurgence has been heavily influenced by neoliberal theory and practice, raising important questions about whether it should be adopted as a public service model. Not all corporatizations promote commercialization, however. The article also discusses stand-alone utilities that have managed to stave off market pressures and develop in more equity-oriented directions. The scope for non-commercialized corporatization is narrow, but given the expansion of this organizational model it is important that we understand both its limitations and potentials, particularly in low-income countries in the South where service gaps are large and equity is a major challenge.

Suggested Citation

  • McDonald, David A., 2016. "To corporatize or not to corporatize (and if so, how?)," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 107-114.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juipol:v:40:y:2016:i:c:p:107-114
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jup.2016.01.002

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrea ZATTI, 2012. "New Organizational Models In European Local Public Transport: From Myth To Reality," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 83(4), pages 533-559, December.
    2. Shirley, Mary M., 1999. "Bureaucrats in business: The roles of privatization versus corporatization in state-owned enterprise reform," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 115-136, January.
    3. Susan Spronk, 2010. "Water and Sanitation Utilities in the Global South: Re-centering the Debate on “Efficiencyâ€," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 42(2), pages 156-174, June.
    4. Aivazian, Varouj A. & Ge, Ying & Qiu, Jiaping, 2005. "Can corporatization improve the performance of state-owned enterprises even without privatization?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 11(5), pages 791-808, October.
    5. Colin C. Williams & Jan Windebank, 2003. "The slow advance and uneven penetration of commodification," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 250-264, June.
    6. repec:kap:iaecre:v:11:y:2005:i:1:p:69-82 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Alexander S. Preker & April Harding, 2003. "Innovations in Health Service Delivery : The Corporatization of Public Hospitals," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15145, November.
    8. Herrera, Veronica & Post, Alison E., 2014. "Can Developing Countries Both Decentralize and Depoliticize Urban Water Services? Evaluating the Legacy of the 1990s Reform Wave," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 621-641.
    9. Zhang, Yanlong, 2014. "From State to Market: Private Participation in China’s Urban Infrastructure Sectors, 1992–2008," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 473-486.
    10. Oum, Tae H. & Adler, Nicole & Yu, Chunyan, 2006. "Privatization, corporatization, ownership forms and their effects on the performance of the world's major airports," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 109-121.
    11. Louis Lefeber & Thomas Vietorisz, 2007. "The Meaning of Social Efficiency," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 139-164.
    12. Oum, Tae H. & Adler, Nicole & Yu, Chunyan, 2006. "Privatization, Corporatization, Ownership Forms and their Effects on the Performance of the World’s Major Airports," 47th Annual Transportation Research Forum, New York, New York, March 23-25, 2006 208026, Transportation Research Forum.
    13. Florio, Massimo, 2013. "Network Industries and Social Welfare: The Experiment that Reshuffled European Utilities," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199674855.
    14. Khalid Nadvi & Frank Wältring, 2004. "Making sense of global standards," Chapters,in: Local Enterprises in the Global Economy, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    15. Joskow, Paul L, 1996. "Introducing Competition into Regulated Network Industries: From Hierarchies to Markets in Electricity," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 341-382.
    16. Hood, Christopher, 1995. "The "new public management" in the 1980s: Variations on a theme," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 20(2-3), pages 93-109.
    17. Cynthia Benzing, 2005. "Cuba—Is the “Special Period” Really Over?," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 11(1), pages 69-82, February.
    18. Richard E. Ericson, 1991. "The Classical Soviet-Type Economy: Nature of the System and Implications for Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 11-27, Fall.
    19. Boelens, Rutgerd & Vos, Jeroen, 2012. "The danger of naturalizing water policy concepts: Water productivity and efficiency discourses from field irrigation to virtual water trade," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 16-26.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Camos Daurella,Daniel & Estache,Antonio, 2017. "Regulating water and sanitation network services accounting for institutional and informational constraints," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8149, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    Corporatization; Neoliberalism; Equity;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:juipol:v:40:y:2016:i:c:p:107-114. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.