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date: 24 February 2024

Privatization of State-Owned Enterpriseslocked

Privatization of State-Owned Enterpriseslocked

  • David ParkerDavid ParkerSchool of Management, Cranfield University

Summary

Theoretical developments in economics, alongside evidence that state-owned enterprises were often inefficient and unresponsive to consumers, led to a substantial program of privatizations from the 1980s. Privatization can take a number of forms, from the outright sale of state-owned assets to private investors to forms of public-private partnership, such as contracting out and franchising of public services. Privatization was promoted in both developed and developing countries, and large-scale privatizations occurred in Europe, Latin America, China, and the former communist economies of Central and Eastern Europe, in particular. Privatization revenues rose substantially from the late 1980s internationally. Taking the years 1988 to 2016, revenues from sales are estimated to have been around $3,634bn. In terms of main sectors of the economy affected, privatizations have particularly occurred in telecommunications, transport and logistics (mainly railways, airlines, and airports), other utility businesses (especially energy companies), and finance. Numerous empirical studies suggest that the performance of the privatized businesses and services has been mixed. While privatization has led to some impressive economic gains, in a number of countries, wider governance issues relating to political and legal systems have led to disappointing outcomes. Privatization has not always led to the removal of state interference in the management of businesses and services. Corruption and cronyism have blighted a number of privatizations. State sell-offs have led to income and wealth redistribution with gainers and losers from the process. Some privatizations have led to spectacular capital gains for investors. The impact of privatization on employment and working conditions remains unclear.

There are a number of issues that deserve further investigation, namely the consequences of privatization for technological change and innovation, competition policy, and income and wealth distribution. A further subject for investigation is how the effective and efficient management of state-owned enterprises can be best achieved. The boundary between the private and public sectors remains fluid, with a number of enterprises returning to state ownership as political and economic conditions change.

Subjects

  • Business Policy and Strategy
  • History
  • International Business

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