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International Handbook on Privatization

Edited by David Parker and David Saal

Privatization has dominated industrial restructuring programs since the 1980s and continues to do so. This authoritative and accessible Handbook considers all aspects of this key issue, including: the theory of privatization; privatization in transition, developed and developing economies; as well the economic regulation of privatized industries.
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Chapter 3: Privatization: Analysing the Benefits

Colin Robinson


3 Privatization: analysing the benefits Colin Robinson Introduction The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the concept and theory of privatization. It does not examine in any detail the empirical evidence about the effects of privatization on efficiency, costs, prices, service standards and other indicators of performance: these effects are considered in subsequent chapters.1 This chapter concentrates on the reasons which lie behind privatization, the potential benefits and the way in which privatization is, in practice, affected by the political calculus. The privatization movement, which began towards the end of the twentieth century and which is now under way in many parts of the world, had its origins primarily in Britain. According to the OECD: The United Kingdom by its persistent action over a decade created a framework for the planning and execution of privatisation programs in an advanced industrial economy with well-developed capital markets, which would serve as a model for other countries at later times. (OECD, 1997) Forty years earlier, a British government had carried out a major change in industrial policy by nationalizing what were then regarded as the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy. Influenced by the apparent failings of capitalist economies in the 1930s, the perceived success of the planned wartime economy in Britain and the prevailing view that detailed government control of industry was both possible and desirable, Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour government took industries such as coal, electricity, gas, longdistance road transport, the railways, inland waterways,...

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