IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Public versus private ownership : the current state of the debate


  • Shirley, Mary
  • Walsh, Patrick


At the heart of the debate about public versus private ownership lie three questions: 1) Does competition matter more than ownership? 2) Are state enterprises more subject to welfare-reducing interventions by government than private firms are? 3) Do state enterprises suffer more from governance problems than private firms do? Even if the answers to these questions favor private ownership, the question must still be asked: Do distortions in the process of privatization mean that privatized firms perform worse than state enterprises? The author's review found greater ambiguity about the merits of privatization and private ownership in the theoretical literature than in the empirical literature. In most cases, empirical research strongly favors private ownership in competitive markets over a state-owned counterfactual (although construction of the counterfactual is itself a problem). Theory's ambiguity about ownership in monopoly markets seems better justified. Since the choice confronting governments is between state ownership and privatization rather than between privatization and optimality, theory has left a gap that empirical work has tried to fill. Further research is needed.

Suggested Citation

  • Shirley, Mary & Walsh, Patrick, 2000. "Public versus private ownership : the current state of the debate," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2420, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2420

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    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:wbk:wbrwps:2420. 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: (Roula I. Yazigi). 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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.