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Corporatization in the European water sector: Lessons for the global South

Corporatization in the European water sector: Lessons for the global South

Lobina, Emanuele ORCID: 0000-0003-4774-0308 and Hall, David (2014) Corporatization in the European water sector: Lessons for the global South. In: McDonald, David A., (ed.) Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South. Zed Books Ltd., London, UK, pp. 185-206. ISBN 978-1783600182

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In Europe, like in the rest of the world, the last 25 years have witnessed an increase in privatization and private sector participation in the water sector. Despite these pressures, the great majority of service operators remain publicly owned in Europe, as they do elsewhere (Lobina and Hall 2008).

Where they could not succeed in replacing public operators with private companies, neoliberal forces have instead insisted that public operators should behave as if they were private companies, often in the form of corporatized entities (Lobina and Hall 2009, Magdahl 2012). Yet, the diffusion and consequences of corporatization in the European water sector remain under-researched.

This chapter reviews the experience of corporatization in Europe as it relates to corresponding experiences in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Its aim is to discuss European similarities and differences with the case studies from the global South presented in this book. We reflect on the pros and cons of corporatization in general, and focus in particular on the extent to which the corporatization of services has enhanced or undermined the ‘public’ nature of essential services such as water supply and sanitation in the European Union (EU). In addition, we offer recommendations on what might be done to improve institutional and ideological modelling of stand-alone public enterprises in the EU, drawing on Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) research on the European experience with corporatization over the past 25 years.

Of the current 28 member countries of the EU, we focus on a limited number of countries representative of different geopolitical regions: Southern Europe (Italy, Spain); Central Europe (France, Germany); Eastern Europe (Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland); Northern Europe (the Netherlands, UK); and Nordic Europe (Finland, Sweden). The chapter is structured as follows. The first section sketches an analytical framework to differentiate between different forms of corporatization, followed by a brief history of corporatization in the EU and how this has changed institutionally and ideologically. We then turn to illustrate, respectively, the perceived and actual advantages and disadvantages of corporatization in the EU, and how these have changed through time and in different contexts. A subsequent section discusses the circumstances under which corporatization might be an appropriate mechanism for public ownership and management of essential services in the EU, while the final section offers lessons drawn from the EU experience for corporatization in the global South, and vice versa.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Chapter 8.
Uncontrolled Keywords: corporatisation, water services, institutional reform, institutional alignment, remediableness, public sector reform, Europe, comparative institutional analysis
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2019 17:00

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