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Managing state-owned enterprises in an age of crisis

Muiris MacCarthaigh and Blanaid Clarke

As with all aspects of public management, the control, financing and regulation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are matters subject to changing international trends and domestic political imperatives (OECD 2005). What the effects of the global financial crisis will be on the ownership and financing of SOEs is slowly unfolding but will undoubtedly be heavily influenced by a new era of public sector reforms principally designed to reassert central political controls as well as fiscal pressures to balance state budgets. Responses have not been uniform - while many states are resorting to sales of their assets, certain enterprises, most notably banks, have come into public ownership and reversed the privatisation trend of recent decades. The role of the state is therefore once again in need of reconsideration (Skocpol 2008). Drawing on the Irish case, the issues of state-owned enterprise ownership, management and financing are addressed in this paper. Findings from two datasets - one concerning aspects of the corporate governance of existing Irish SOEs collected in 2008 (MacCarthaigh 2009) and another which presents a time-series analysis of Irish commercial and non-commercial public bodies since 1924 will identify the contemporary challenges faced by SOEs and how they are responding to them. The study will be informed by insights from institutional and organizational theory, as well as more recent writings on delegation and agencification.


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