Economic Justice in Africa: Adjustment and Sustainable Development

By George W. Shepherd; Karamo N. M. Sonko | Go to book overview

4
The Public Enterprise Sectors and Adjustment Programs in Africa

Karamo N. M. Sonko

The 1990s is a decade of privatization. The sweeping economic changes that are now taking place in the former Eastern bloc and the crisis of developing country debt have unleashed a mood that is very hostile to the public sector or the state. Although the changes in the Eastern republics have provided the much- awaited and, therefore, welcome evidence that state intervention in the economy is always doomed to failure, such intervention has been identified as a major cause of the crisis of debt in the developing countries. Thus, the world is currently witnessing two historical phenomena, each of which has been taken as evidence against any role for the state in economic development.

This study is not a defense of public enterprises (PEs), nor an attempt to resist the unstoppable tide of privatization in the developing world. However, it is inspired by the realization that "the claims for or against privatization are surely extreme. . . . At this general level of discourse, the question of whether to privatize evolves around ideology than around positive analysis."1 The ideological, (mostly latent), pro-privatization surge has produced a euphoria in which policy makers stand the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater through sweeping generalizations about the disastrous role of the state or state-owned enterprise. While International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank-designed structural adjustment programs (SAPs) proceed at full speed, studies have yet to address this risk, specifically in African economies.

Therefore, this chapter seeks to draw attention to the importance of public enterprises in Africa, their performance and the factors that affect it, and their reform in SAPs. It distinguishes between how they have been treated and how they should be treated during adjustment, thus suggesting criteria for their management or privatization when necessary. Two case studies are made in an attempt to show and answer how and why, respectively, state ownership can be

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