Public enterprise reforms and efficiency in regulated environments: the case of the postal sector
Purpose. This paper focuses on analyzing the effect that public reforms have on the efficiency of state-owned enterprises in regulated environments. Design, methodology, approach. The research is focused in the postal sector where public and private companies must obey a legal framework related to provide a universal service. The analysis is carried out using a panel of 7 European postal operators for the period 1997-2003. The activity analyzed was the letter mail division; we take as key variable the unit cost of a letter and use a translog cost function where as independent variables we include traffic levels, labor cost per employee, quality and availability of the service as well as the type of ownership (public or private). Additionally, in a second stage the geographical differences among countries are considered. Findings. Results indicate that postal operators that experienced organizational changes without being privatized, such as the Spanish and Greek operators, do not have higher unit costs than privatized postal operators like the one of Germany and the Netherlands. Moreover, we find that in all cases the operator of Ireland appear to be the most efficient. In this case restructuring process has been carried out giving an important leadership role to workers. This suggests us that labor culture could be a key variable to study when analyzing reform processes in public enterprises. Originality, value. Our findings show that in a regulated environment like in the postal sector, public and private companies can obtain similar efficiency levels in term of unit costs.
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