Is private production of public services cheaper than public production? A meta-regression analysis of solid waste and water services

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (Impact Factor: 0.93). 01/2010; 29(3):553-577.
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT Privatization of local government services is assumed to deliver cost savings, but empirical evidence for this from around the world is mixed. We conduct a meta-regression analysis of all econometric studies examining privatization of water distribution and solid waste collection services and find no systematic support for lower costs with private production. Differences in study results are explained by differences in time period of the analyses, service characteristics, and policy environment. We do not find a genuine empirical effect of cost savings resulting from private production. The results suggest that to ensure cost savings, more attention be given to the cost characteristics of the service, the transaction costs involved, and the policy environment stimulating competition, rather than to the debate over public versus private delivery of these services. © 2010 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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    ABSTRACT: Concerns regarding rising water and sewerage prices have generated a renewed interest in measuring and assessing water utility performance. An efficiency analysis can serve as a basis for price setting decisions. This article examines the influence of ownership structure and corporate size on the efficiency of Estonian water companies, and assesses the empirical efficiency gaps through the lens of corporate governance and natural monopoly theories. To assess efficiency and the influence of ownership and corporate size on efficiency, we use a Data Envelopment Analysis and truncated regression with maximum likelihood estimation as well as an ANOVA test. The study sample consists of 43 water utilities, serving more than 68% of the Estonian population. One main finding of the study reveals that ownership structure does not affect the efficiency of Estonian water utilities, while efficiency does increase with corporate size: large water utilities outperform small utilities. An additional conclusion is that the Estonian water sector is too fragmented.
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