Razgovarao sam sa Prof. Emanuel S. Savas-om, jednim od prvih experta i općenito “pionira” u području privatizacije. Mnogi ga smatraju intelektualnim ocem privatizacije i najvećim zagovornikom outsourcinga. Profesor je na poznatoj School of Public Affairs, dio Baruch Collegea, City University of New York. Godine 1987. je izašla njegova knjiga Privatization – The Key to Better Government koja je potom izdata ponovo 1999. u novoj verziji pod naslovom Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships. Knjiga je obavezno “štivo” u vezi privatizacije. Ta i druge knjige prevedene su na 22 jezika, nažalost ne i na hrvatski. Predsjednik Ronald Reagan ga je postavio kao Assistant Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ovo je razgovor koji sam imao sa njime prije neki dan. Post je sada na engleskom jer smo naravno tako razgovarali i jer sam želio sve napisati dok mi je svježe na papiru. No, plan je da ću do ponedjeljka prevesti intervju na hrvatski kad ću i napisati više nego ovdje o prof. Savasu o njegovom radu, knjigama i primjerima iz njih.
Cro: I know you traveled to and lectured in Yugoslavia. Where and what about?
Prof. Savas: I lectured in Yugoslavia on 3 occasions. I visited Dubrovnik 2 times to attend 2 conferences in the early 1980s. The topic was privatization and public services, and during the 2 weeks they lasted we would gave several talks and held discussions. The conferences in Dubrovnik were organized by prof. Rajko Tomović from University of Beograd. (Prof. Savas pronounces serbo-croatian words that he knows, such as konkurencija, perfectly) He really did an excellent job bringing a lot of people from different countries there to discuss public affairs issues. Local people were quite surprised given that there were Americans, Brits and Soviets discussing these things together.
On one occasion I flew from Dubrovnik to Belgrade. I gave a lecture on privatization to the City Council of Beograd and the next day made the front page of a daily paper. I believe it was called Komunist or something like that. (laughter) The mayor instructed his driver to take me to Sarajevo for a visit there. After being treated to an afternoon of sightseeing and an overnight stay, the mayor in Sarajevo then told his driver to take me back to Dubrovnik. They were very nice to me.
Cro: This is straying from the topic, but what was your opinion on those visits?
Prof. Savas: I was very impressed with what I saw. I visited the Soviet Union a lot because I was the US director of a Soviet-American Project on the Management of Large Cities. That was the program set up under the Brezhnev-Nixon Détente Agreement during the cold war to see where we could collaborate.
Compared to them you felt you were in a capitalist country in Yugoslavia. Soviets didn’t even have phonebooks available and the explanation was that if you wanted to call someone you knew you already knew the number, so why would you need a phonebook? That was in the ’70s. When I wanted to call my son from Moscow I had to make a reservation to make an international call 3 days in advance! That was never the case in Yugoslavia. In Dubrovnik, I rented a car for myself, a Russian and British friend to drive along the coast. Well, the Russian was astonished that I showed a piece of plastic (credit card) and drive away with a new car from Avis. He never saw anything like it. You never felt like you are in an oppressive dictatorship in Yugoslavia as opposed to the USSR.
Cro: What did you recently do related to privatization?
Prof. Savas: Three months ago I went to China. My books on privatization were translated there. I gave lectures on it and spoke to a Chinese official who told me party higher-ups are instructing their subordinates to read my books. And this is in communist China. My books were translated to 22 languages. Taiwan had its own translation, Chinese was not good enough I guess. (laughter) None of my books were translated into Serbo-Croatian but I hope that someday soon someone there wil decide they should be.
Cro: Hopefully someone will contact you about it.
Corruption in privatization is a huge issue in post-communist countries. But some countries did quite a lot of it successfully, without popular backlash. Who was the most successful?
Prof. Savas: Yes, there was so much corruption going on there, for a while I was keeping files on each country, but it was just too much. Estonia did the best job of privatizing. Slovenia also, since they have the most advanced market economy. One of the goals of privatization is to create a market-based economy.
Poland started quite well, I knew lots of “Gdansk boys” from Solidarity, not Valesa though. But then they started going in a down direction. Poland now has these iffy twin brothers as leaders.
Cro: Any examples from Poland?
Prof. Savas: I was in the city of Gdynia, which is close to Gdansk, to talk about privatization of the public bus transportation. I spoke to the head of the city bus service and asked him: “What would happen if an employee, a driver for example, came to you and asked ‘Can I start a private bus company?’ “Well, what a coincidence, we had an employee come just the other day with such a question” he tells me. He brought the guy in and he tells me – “If I could lease just 6 buses I can take over all routes in the northwestern part of the city. I know some good drivers outside the company and I would hire the good ones from here. I would also hire good mechanics that I know, not these guys in the city shop that don’t do a good job. In five years I would be a millionire by U.S. standards!” Later I told a city councilman about that man and idea.
Cro: People in Croatia are quite aware of the successes Estonia achieved. How did Estonia and Slovenia do it?
Prof. Savas: I was not currently involved in those countries, so I can’t give you the details. But what is important is leadership at the top. Estonia had a young band of guys, the youngest cabinet in the world, so they were very reformist and put fresh ideas in place. Prime minister was some 34 years old, I believe. They are anti-Russian and did not want to be dependent on Russia for trade or a functioning economy. Nationalistic feelings they had were directed in the right direction. They set up good, enduring foundations. It is similar to the United States, where our founding fathers set up great foundations that persist to this day, to the envy of the world.
In other countries like Croatia that have high levels of corruption, people fell prey to the usual human vices. The foundations for successful privatization were not laid.
Cro: How can the government avoid pitfalls commonly encountered?
Prof. Savas: Look, it simple really. It is not esoteric. You need leadership at the top and a proper regulatory environment. Most countries privatized or still do through privatization funds, just like Croatia. For that you need a proper regulatory environment and ability to appeal the decision made. Another usual pitfall or problem are unions. But they don’t have to be “destroyed” by firing overstaffed workers. Introduction of competition, which is the point of privatization, will cut down on over-staffing.
Cro: What about forming government holdings; restructuring companies and then putting them on the market? Can politicians do it? How about workers ownership as a way to privatize?
Prof. Savas: It can be done but it requires heavy oversight, it is slow and cumbersome. Worker ownership can be made to work, it is not bad. And workers don’t have to own the majority of the company. Later on, they will sell out anyway, especially if they are given steep discounts during privatization. IPOs are another good way. For that you need functioning stock markets. Thatcher in England privatized almost everything through IPOs.
But nothing is “corruption free.” If you try to make it perfect you will never get anything done. In Poland, they told me “Let them steal, at least we will get markets going. Later, things will sort out in the markets.”
Cro: Some politicians have a position that certain companies that are “natural monopolies” should not be privatized.
Prof. Savas: Exactly those should be privatized. Politicians exploit that argument. Take the power supply for example. You have three parts: generation, transmission and delivery. Transmission can be government owned, ok. But electricity production? That can be done by any capable private company. It’s the same with the water service. You can have many companies and many water sources, but the distribution network can be considered a natural monopoly.
Cro: Cities are where most of the services are owned and provided solely by the government and people complain. Can’t that be done in a better way?
Prof. Savas: Of course. Municipal (government) services that are monopolies, such as garbage collecting, tend to become fat, dumb, and happy, just like private monopolies. Studies show you can break down a city into districts and outsource services (garbage for example) through those districts. There could also be rules for who gets what municipal service. New York for example is still the Peoples Republic of New York [a comparison to Peoples Republic of China] for waste management. (laughter) But, commercial entities are not entitled to city-run services, they hire private garbage collectors. Also, certain neighborhoods choose to tax themselves to hire and pay for private garbage collecting and cleaning. The state collects the tax and gives it back to a board of trustees in charge of the service. Private waste management services serve private apartment buildings.
Similarly for public transportation. Seoul in Korea, cities in Ukraine and Buenos Aires in Argentina have private bus companies that provide bus serives to the public. In Buenos Aires they simply gave buses to drivers and they had their routes. However, drivers did not put money aside for repairs and buses started breaking down. So, drivers just sold their routes to companies. Now you have 102 bus companies, they are privately owned and they work fine. You have buses on some routes every couple of minutes.
In New York, public transportation is inadequate in some areas, so you have these semi-legal van services set up by people for transportation
Cro: In your book you say that “public cynicism is likely to undermine privatization.” That is exactly what is happening in Croatia now. People are just “sick and tired” of privatization. In some polls they regularly rank privatization as the second worst thing that has happened to the country besides the war. How would you approach such an attitude by the voters?
Prof. Savas: You should start gradually with strong support from leadership at the top. There is no other way to start. Transparency is very important. That way, as I mention in my book, you create thousands of auditors for the whole process. Start with outsourcing for every day services. No one has to be fired for example, even though plenty of countries did that. It’s a way to introduce competition and people understand outsourcing. They won’t feel cheated on and positive things will get done.
Cro: Can privatization be a goal in itself?
Prof. Savas: That is a tricky one to answer. Yes it can be, but it is better as a tool to achieve a better government.