Palcic, Dónal and Reeves, Eoin. 'An economic analysis of privatisation in Ireland, 1991-2003'. - Dublin: Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland,Vol. XXXIV, 2004/2005, pp1-27
Journal of The Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland Vol. XXXIV 2004/2005
Although a late starter with regard to privatising State Owned Enterprises (SOEs),
Ireland was recently ranked 8th among OECD countries in terms of relative privatisation
activity. This paper presents the first detailed analysis of the programme since the first
divestiture in 1991. It explores how the rationale for selling SOEs has evolved and argues
that privatisation has been pursued on the basis of multiple (sometimes conflicting)
objectives. One goal that has been common to all divestitures has been that of improving
company performance. Although we find evidence that SOEs achieve ‘static’ efficiency
gains in the pre-privatisation period, the available evidence fails to support the hypothesis
that privatisation brings about sustained improvements in enterprise performance.
Privatisation has also been pursued in order to raise exchequer revenues and achieve certain
distributional goals. Although the levels of share discounts and expenses have been low by
international standards the government has foregone significant revenues by granting sizeable
share ownerships to workers. Consequently workers along with institutional investors rank
among the ‘winners’ from privatisation whereas small shareholders (in the case of Eircom)
and the exchequer have incurred significant losses. Importantly, there is little to suggest that
privatisation per se has yielded significant gains to the consumer. This raises questions about
the sequencing of measures of privatisation and liberalisation.
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