Does privatization deliver?: highlights from a World Bank by Ahmed Galal, Mary M. Shirley, World Bank

By Ahmed Galal, Mary M. Shirley, World Bank

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When governments are no longer involved in managing enterprises, administrative capacity that once went toward that activity is freed to work toward other activities that only governments can perform. Reflections on Difficulties in Privatization A second lesson concerns the difficulties of privatization. Is privatization difficult? Yes. But in thinking about whether privatization is desirable, concerns about the difficulties frequently lead to the Page 14 wrong conclusion: let's not do it. Like other policy issues, privatization is surely a matter of comparisons among options.

But privatization can be hard to accomplish, partly because the gains are diffuse while the costs are highly visible and concentrated. " Because buyers do not trust governments not to intervene, they will pay less for the enterprises than they otherwise would. Then if the government does behave well, the buyers reap a windfall gain, creating pressures for the government to misbehave and confirming their worst suspicions. One of the challenges facing international agencies is to free governments from this trap, overcome the biases against privatization, and help countries realize the gains.

Douglas is known internationally as the driving force behind the reform of the country's economy during the period 198488. This reform included major deregulation of financial markets, corporatization of state trading departments and adoption of privatization policies, as well as dramatic reform of taxation systems. He has also served on the Public Expenditure and Commerce Parliamentary Select Committee and was Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry and Shadow Minister of Finance. Ahmed Galal is a senior economist in the World Bank's Policy Research Department.

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