International Seminar Public Enterprises

29 October 2012
29 October 2012 to 31 October 2012

Download the programme.


A livestream of the event can be followed here:


In the 1990s, the combined pressures of globalization, liberalization and marketization of national economies led to an expansion of the private sector and the concurrent downsizing of the public sector. Privatization or corporatization of public enterprises was a key component of structural reform packages promoted by international financial organizations and governments across the South. Many state-owned companies had become little more than second-rate government departments, and the underlying assumption was that, as the economy evolved, the government would close or sell them to private investors.

Yet, nowadays, in the context of a global crisis, public enterprises “show no signs of relinquishing the commanding heights” and “are on the offensive”, as a special report recently published The Economist observes. The failures of privatization, evident in unequal access, unfulfilled promises and outrageous profit margins are prompting governments to take back control of essential public services, through processes of remunicipalization and renationalization. The public sector is also expanding in major industries: the world’s ten biggest firms in the oil and gas sector, in terms of reserves, are all state-owned.

The current crisis has also stimulated new scepticism on failed policy prescriptions for “more market and less state”, which have hegemonized policy design in most countries of the South for the past three decades. The new uncertainties have opened the way to reconsideration of the nature and role of the state in the design and implementation of a national development strategy.

The changing international scenario warrants a review of the present situation and prospects of public enterprises in countries of the South. There is a renewed conviction that public enterprises have new roles to play in the promotion of economic and social progress, and that therefore they must perform efficiently, effectively, and under democratic control. By organizing an international seminar on ‘Public Enterprises: Transformations, Challenges and Opportunities’, the Government of Uruguay and the Transnational Institute seek to advance debate and exchange between researchers and policy-makers. The seminar will discuss the nature, benefits, constraints and challenges of state ownership and management, situating the discussion developments within ongoing political processes (particularly in Latin America) and broader debates about the future of public enterprises.



Seminar format and outcomes

The seminar will take place in Montevideo, on October 29-31. The list of participants is composed of several highly regarded analysts and policy-makers with extensive knowledge and expertise on issues related to the nature and prospects of public enterprises. The agenda of the conference will consist of two days of sessions devoted to (a) reviewing recent theoretical and conceptual developments in this field, and (b) examining the concrete experience of various countries and sectors.

The seminar is jointly organized by the Transnational Institute, the Directorate-General for Industrial Development of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM), and the National Telecommunications Administration.

The seminar will lead to a bi-lingual publication (English and Spanish) based on the experts’ presentations and the views expressed during the meeting. Two other possible outcomes are the creation of a working group and the discussion of a future international research project on public enterprises in the South, linked to other ongoing initiatives such as CIRIEC’s proposal around “The Future of Public Enterprises” and the MSP’s proposal on “Alternatives to the Privatization of Public Services”.


photo by apr77