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The British privatisation programme: a long term perspective


  • Robert MILLWARD



The British privatisations were concentrated on the infrastructure industries of transport, communications and energy. It is important to assess the efficiency impact in a long-term context. The Milan study goes some way towards this but even better is to compare different countries of the Western world over the whole period since 1945. A distinction is made here between 1945-73 and the 1973-95 period, which followed the oil shocks and ushered in a general phase of de-regulation and privatisation. It is suggested that factors like the reconstruction after the Second World War, the process of catch-up and convergence in technologies and the resource endowments of different countries had much bigger effects on productivity levels and growth rates in the infrastructure industries than the shift from nationalised to privatised regimes. This article also, more briefly, critically evaluates two other elements of the Milan study, the treatment of excess profits and of the move to more differentiated price structures.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert MILLWARD, 2006. "The British privatisation programme: a long term perspective," Departmental Working Papers 2006-07, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2006-07

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James Foreman-Peck & Dorothy Manning, 1988. "How well is BT performing? An international comparison of telecommunications total factor productivity," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 9(3), pages 54-67, August.
    2. Massimo Florio, 2002. "A state without ownership: the welfare impact of British Privatisations 1979-1997," Departmental Working Papers 2002-24, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    3. Broadberry, Stephen & Ghosal, Sayantan, 2002. "From the Counting House to the Modern Office: Explaining Anglo-American Productivity Differences in Services, 1870–1990," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(04), pages 967-998, December.
    4. Broadberry, Stephen N., 1998. "How Did the United States and Germany Overtake Britian? A Sectoral Analysis of Comparative Productivity Levels, 1870–1990," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 375-407, June.
    5. Foreman-Peck, James & Waterson, Michael, 1985. "The Comparative Efficiency of Public and Private Enterprise in Britain: Electricity Generation between the World Wars," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(380a), pages 83-95, Supplemen.
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    Cited by:

    1. Glen O'Hara, 2009. "'What the electorate can be expected to swallow': Nationalisation, transnationalism and the shifting boundaries of the state in post-war Britain," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(4), pages 501-528.

    More about this item


    Nationalization; Privatization; Great Britain;

    JEL classification:

    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out
    • L32 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Public Enterprises; Public-Private Enterprises

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