The State-Owned Enterprise as a Vehicle for Stability
Written by Neil Efird
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) tend to be providers of essential public services—such as electric power companies, water utilities, ports, and transportation networks—but SOEs also engage in an array of commercial activities involving airlines, banks, basic commodity plantations, textile manufacturing, and vehicle assembly plants. Given this magnitude of SOE activity, during the immediate post-conflict period—especially that first 6 months when organizations such as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) can be used for the initial screening, prioritization, and selection of SOE revitalization candidates—planners should not neglect the need for institution-building, which usually requires medium- and long-term expertise typically found in economic development agencies. The need is pertinent given that SOEs can be national in scope of operation and scale of resources, and the effective management of the SOEs and their operations can significantly affect national-level economic development. Therefore, agents engaged in stability operations should work with development planners to encourage mid- to long-term institutional capacity building that enhances the conflict-prone country’s broader capacity for sustained growth. The intended end state of SOEs in stability operations should be functioning entities that can attract new investment, perhaps by privatization when and where appropriate. Although revitalizing SOEs can be complex and ambiguous, the task can be a useful, intermediate objective on the road to a post-conflict sustainable economy.
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