January 12, 2018

How would I privatize a public service? Always making sure that who owns and manages it, are neighbors I can hold accountable.

Sir, I refer to Martin Wolf’s discussion on the subject of privatized or not public services. “Nationalisation is the wrong answer to a real question” December 12.

I was a very active participant, wearing many different hats, in many of the privatizations that took place in my Venezuela, during its privatization influenza.

Like Wolf I much favour the private over the public sector managing these services but, looking back, the number one requirement I would make when privatizing, would be to require the private owners of any such privatized public services, to live within the community, and have their affiliation to the public service transparently identified all the time. Like being able to call over the fence: “Hey Bill, what happened last night when the lights went out”, “Hey Bill, can’t you find a way to stop it from being so expensive?”

I felt in the air the immediate difference between a private electrical services company held by a family living in Caracas, who wanted to make profits but also to be seen as good public servants, and that same company when it passed into the hands of absentee owners.

It was day and night! The new investors loaded up the old conservative run company with debt, took most of their skin out of the game paying themselves huge dividends and other services, and left the poor users having to serve that debt.

Of course, then came Hugo Chávez and put it all in the hands of the government, and so it went from a bit bad to plain horrible.