Nota di Lavoro, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei 151.2005
This paper reviews the state of thinking on the governance role of public ownership and control. We argue that the transfer of operational control over productive assets to the private sector represents the most desirable governance, due to the inherent difficulty for citizens to constrain political abuse relative to the ability of governments to regulate private activity. However in weak institutional environments the process needs to be structured so as to avoid capture of the regulatory process. The speed of transfer should be timed on the progress in developing a strong regulatory governance system, to which certain residual rights of intervention must be vested. After all, what are institutions if not governance mechanisms with some degree of autonomy from both political and private interests? The gradual creation of institutions partially autonomous from political power must become central to the development of an optimal mode of regulatory governance. We advance some suggestions about creating accountability in regulatory governance, in particular creating an internal control system based on a rotating board representative of users, producers and civil society, to be elected by a process involving frequent reporting and disclosure.