Privatising electric power in Malaysia and Thailand: Politics and infrastructure development policy

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Public Administration and Development


Electric power development in Asia until recently has been a monopoly of the state, with the power sector's planning, finance, construction and management being a part of government activity. The surge in demand for power, as well as external pressures, induced Asian governments to allow private sector participation in electric power. The Malaysian and Thailand cases represent different patterns of policy-making regarding privatisation. In Malaysia, the government divested Tenaga Nacional Berhad in 1992 and awarded independent power producers (IPPs) licenses to build and sell electricity to Tenaga for transmission and distribution. The IPPs were awarded without tender to friends of the government and the system has enabled the IPPs to make large profits at Tenaga's expense. In the Thai case, privatisation has been a very slow process as successive governments since 1989 have not had the power to initiate extensive divestment of IPP contracting. Privatisation in Thailand is a very contentious political issue and the employees union of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is very powerful. Thus, while Malaysia has had extensive privatisation of the power sector, the system eliminates competition in power supply resulting in a higher price of electricity for consumers. © 2003 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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Author First name, Last name, Institution

Thomas B. Smith, Zayed University