A Political Economy of Privatization Contracts : The Case of Water and Sanitation in Ghana and Argentina
Robertson, Simon A.
In general, the process and outcomes of privatization have been studied from the point of view of efficiency. In this article, we consider issues in the course of contract design, implementation, management and enforcement in privatized public services and utilities. The study is based on two case studies, involving several water concessions in Argentina and a management contract in the urban water sector in Ghana. Three key arguments are presented on the basis of these case studies. The first is that an individualistic analytical framework is often utilized by the mainstream economic perspectives, but these are inadequate for a comparative assessment of private versus public provision in public services where there are distinct collective or group interests and hence a wider socio-economic context and representation of different interests becomes highly important. Instead, the article proposes a political economy perspective, which pays due attention to distributional issues, group interests, ideology of states and power relations for the assessment of privatization contracts. Second, the administrative capacity of states and their resources play a key role for the outcomes of privatization. Finally, while some contractual issues could be resolved through resourcing and experience over time, others are inherent to the contractual relations with little prospect of remedy.