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Infrastructure “Privatization”: When Ideology Meets Evidence


  • Antonio Estache


The paper documents the differences between the rhetoric and the evidence on the infrastructure privatization experience that started in the mid-1990s. It shows the heterogeneity across regions and across sub-sectors of the relative importance of the private actors in infrastructure financing. It then reviews the long term evidence on the efficiency and equity effects of the policy. It shows that reformers have underestimated the trade-offs between efficiency and equity, as well as their fiscal effects. Moreover, it finds that in many cases, the initial improvements credited to privatization eroded with time in sectors in which competition was limited so that the performance differences with state-owned enterprises disappeared. Finally, it suggests that, in most countries, policies focusing on market structure, competition, regulation and institutional and governance strengthening have been much more important determinants of performance than privatization per se. It concludes by arguing that more realism and less ideology will go a long way in allowing the various forms of privatization to contribute to the global infrastructure agenda in the interest of all stakeholders.

Suggested Citation

  • Antonio Estache, 2020. "Infrastructure “Privatization”: When Ideology Meets Evidence," Working Papers ECARES 2020-28, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/309876

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abbott, Malcolm & Cohen, Bruce, 2016. "The privatization and de-privatization of rail industry assets in Australia and New Zealand," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 48-56.
    2. Emmanuelle Auriol & Claude Crampes & Antonio Estache, 2021. "Regulating public services, bridging the gap between theory and practice," Post-Print hal-03473074, HAL.
    3. Marson, Marta & Savin, Ivan, 2015. "Ensuring Sustainable Access to Drinking Water in Sub Saharan Africa: Conflict Between Financial and Social Objectives," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 26-39.
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    6. Laurens Cherchye & Bram De Rock & Antonio Estache & Marijn Verschelde, 2015. "Efficiency Measures in Regulated Industries: History, Outstanding Challenges and Emerging Solutions," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2015-09, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    7. Prachitha John & Ashwin Mahalingam & Akash Deep & A. Thillairajan, 2015. "Impact of Private Sector Participation on access and quality of services: systematic review of evidence from the electricity, telecommunications and water supply sectors," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 64-89, March.
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    9. Auriol,Emmanuelle & Crampes,Claude & Estache,Antonio, 2021. "Regulating Public Services," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781108833950, February.
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    More about this item


    privatization; regulation; restructuring; efficiency; equity; distributional effects;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H54 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Infrastructures
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • L32 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Public Enterprises; Public-Private Enterprises
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out
    • L50 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - General
    • L90 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - General

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