Privatizing Highways in Latin America: Is it Possible to Fix What Went Wrong?

27 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2003

See all articles by Eduardo M. R. A. Engel

Eduardo M. R. A. Engel

Yale University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alexander Galetovic

Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez; Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace; University of Padua - CRIEP

Ronald D. Fischer

University of Chile - Center of Applied Economics (CEA)

Date Written: July 2003

Abstract

This paper reviews the Latin American experience with highway privatization during the last decade. Based on evidence from Argentina, Colombia and Chile, we find that private financing of new highways freed up fewer public resources than expected because public funds were often diverted to bail out franchise holders. Furthermore, many of the standard benefits of privatization did not materialize because of pervasive contract renegotiations. We argue that the disappointing performance of highway privatization in Latin America was due to two fundamental design flaws. First, countries followed a "privatize now, regulate later" approach. Second, most concessions were awarded as a fixed-term franchise, thereby creating a demand for guarantees and contract renegotiations. This paper also extends our previous work on formal models of highway privatization. We relax the self-financing constraint which ruled out the public provision of highways by assumption, and show that whenever the privatization of a highway is optimal, government transfers are undesirable. Alternatively, if government transfers are optimal, it is always the case that the full public provision of the highway should be preferred over privatization. We also model the role of flexibility and opportunistic behavior in highway concession contracts, and show that, by contrast with its fixed term counterpart, a flexible term franchise provides flexibility without inducing opportunistic behavior. cost-of-funds, flexibility, franchising, government subsidies, present-value-of-revenue (PVR), regulation, renegotiation

Keywords: build-operate-and-transfer (BOT), concessions,

JEL Classification: H21, L51, L91

Suggested Citation

Engel, Eduardo M. and Galetovic, Alexander and Fischer, Ronald D., Privatizing Highways in Latin America: Is it Possible to Fix What Went Wrong? (July 2003). Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 866. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=441481

Eduardo M. Engel (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States
203-432-5595 (Phone)
203-432-5779 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Alexander Galetovic

Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez ( email )

Peñalolén
Santiago
Chile

Stanford University - The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States

University of Padua - CRIEP ( email )

Padua
Italy

Ronald D. Fischer

University of Chile - Center of Applied Economics (CEA) ( email )

Republica 701
Casilla 2777
Santiago
Chile
+56/2/678 4055 (Phone)
+56/2/689 7895 (Fax)

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