IZA DP No. 1587: Privatization Discontent and Its Determinants: Evidence from Latin America
published in: Journal of Development Studies, 2009, 45(3), 333-350
Privatization policy faces increasing popular opposition in Latin America. We test for the determinants of this discontent. We use the results of Latinobarometro (2002), a survey of a representative sample of 18522 individuals in 17 countries as our dependent variable of perception, and a privatization dataset on the same countries, including sectoral disaggregation of divestitures, time profiles, proceeds, and other variables for each country. We use as well a set of macroeconomic variables as controls.. Our main finding is that disagreement with privatization is more likely when the respondent is poor, privatization was large and quick, involved a high proportion of public services as water and electricity, the country suffered adverse macroeconomic shocks, and there is high inequality of incomes. The more the respondent is educated, the more adverse to privatization he or she is. We suggest that these results depict a broadly consistent picture of privatization discontent that points to distributional issues, probably because of tariff rebalancing not adequately addressed by policy makers and regulators, as suggested by earlier empirical papers. Further research is needed on the relationship between perceptions and actual welfare changes.