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Other Voices: State-owned enterprises - an economic tool for Europe

Thursday, May 12, 2011

This column was authored by Dag Detter an independent advisor and state asset specialist. He is the former President of the Swedish Government Holding Company Stattum and the Government Director of State-Owned Enterprises.

While the World grapples with a great experiment to establish whether confidence in the economy can best be rebuilt through fiscal austerity assisted by nominal currency depreciation through fiscal austerity alone or enhanced stimulus, the challenge for Europe could also address a vital part of the economy that has remained untouched by recent reforms, namely government controlled commercial assets or State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

With numerous recent and notable additions, a sizeable part of the commercial sector remains in government hands in many developed economies. The scale of these assets according to the OECD now amounts to at least USD 3 trillion, which exceeds the value of the global private equity and hedge fund industries combined. Without reforming these burgeoning national state sectors, genuine economic reform cannot be achieved this time around the cycle. Whether in southern or northern Europe, SOEs tend by their very nature to be an unholy alliance between commercial and political objectives and of sufficient size to stifle economic growth.

SOEs which are often in the energy, forestry, real estate and transport sectors form an untapped resource for reducing the national budget deficit and driving economic growth. Althou......................

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