In the last decade many countries turned to private sources to provide services formerly offered by public agencies. Europeans, particularly the British and the French, were leaders in this movement. Developing countries also experimented extensively with privatization in the 1980s, with varying degrees of success. Because governments around the world are heavily involved in transportation, it is a natural focus of privatization experiments and in many ways has been at the cutting edge. Going Private examines the diverse privatization experiences of transportation services and facilities. Cases are drawn from the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Since almost every country has experimented to some degree with highway and bus privatization, the authors focus particularly on these services, although they also discuss urban rail transit and airports. Highways and buses, they explain, encompass all three of the most common and basic forms of privatization: the sale of an existing state-owned enterprise; use of private, rather than public, financing and management for new infrastructure development; and contracting out to private vendors public services previously provided by government employees.
After thoroughly examining these services and discussing the motives for, and objections to, privatization, the authors look at the prospects for privatization in other sectors and industries. They assess those circumstances in which privatization is most likely to succeed and those in which it is most likely to fail, for political as well as economic reasons.
The authors conclude that privatization involves many political and social as well as economic dimensions. Privatization is usually not simply a matter of efficiency improvements or capital augmentation but also involves such deeply imbedded societal concerns as equity, income transfers, environmental problems, and attitudes toward taxation and the role of government.