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Modernisation of the Network of Public Services: Economic Efficiency and Social Solidarity

María Elena Corrales

During the last decade, a complete overhaul in the network of public utilities which supply -telecommunications, power, drinking water and, most recently, gas- has been advanced. Such a worldwide process seeks to introduce, or sometimes re-establish, market dynamics in sector relations; incorporate private initiative into their operation and management, based on efficient business criteria, and re-design public actions related to these utilities.

Some elements in the proposed overhauling come into effect in less developed countries. Firstly, the importance of transition in constitutionally weak and distorted environments and the difficulties of introducing new state duties and responsibilities, particularly, those related to new rulemaking and the development of administrative powers associated to transformation. Secondly, the need to re-define the global concept of a network of public utilities, drafting and implementation of efficient and novel subsidy practices to overcome external elements connected with exclusion, as well as ensuring -in the long term- social sustainability of the proposed model.

A renewed state role means the search for a public service aimed at economic efficiency and social equity, achieved by observing fundamental principles that support the efforts towards modernisation. Some lessons towards this goal can be gained from the experience available. There are no easy or single answer. But it is urgent indeed and must be sought without endangering the fundamental principles that support modernisation and that should be based on reality and recognition of the restrictions in each society.

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