The following article by Will Hutton looks at the relative efficiency of private- and public-sector organisations. The public sector is typically characterised as inefficient and providing a poorer level of service and poorer quality products than the private sector. After all, the private sector is driven by the profit motive, where providing a good service would seem to be a key ingredient in making more profit.
Yet when you look around you, this portrayal can be seen as far too simplistic. On the one hand, much of the public sector has been forced to be efficient, following many years of tight budgets. At the same time, many in the public sector are keen to deliver a good service, not only because that is required by their employers, but because they are motivated by a sense of public duty and professionalism. On the other hand, there are many market failings in large parts of the private sector, where monopoly power, asymmetric information and externalities are rife. Read the article and see if you agree with Will Hutton’s analysis.
These money-grubbing companies make the public sector look good Observer (1/11/09)
- What are the incentives to encourage either private-sector companies or public-sector organisations (a) to be efficient in the sense of cutting out waste (X-efficiency); (b) to be allocatively efficient; and (c) to provide a high quality of service to customers / clients / patients / students, etc.?
- What market failures may prevent private-sector companies from achieving (a) to (c) above?
- What organisational failures may prevent public-sector organisations from achieving (a) to (c) above?
- How is Goodhart’s Law relevant to the setting of performance targets in both the private and public sectors?
In February 2009, the world’s largest concert ticket agency, Ticketmaster, and the world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation, announced that they intended to merge. The deal would have been worth around £550 million. This immediately sparked concerns that the new company would have such power in the market that ticket prices would rise. On 10 June 2009, the Office of Fair Trading, in line with the 2002 Enterprise Act, referred the proposed merger to the Competition Commission.
On 8 October 2009, the Competition Commission published its preliminary findings that “the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in the UK market for the primary retailing of tickets for live music events”. The following articles look at the findings and the competition issues. You will also find links below to the Competition Commission press release and the Provisional Findings Report.
Competition body opposes Ticketmaster and Live Nation merger Guardian (8/10/09)
Competition watchdog vetoes Ticketmaster deal Times Online (8/10/09)
The Competition Commission has ruled against the proposed Ticketmaster / Live Nation merger MusicWeek (8/10/09)
British Regulator Objects to Ticketmaster Merger New York Times (8/10/09)
See also the following documents from the Competition Commission:
Provisional findings report
- How would the proposed merger benefit the two companies concerned?
- How would it affect CTS (the second largest ticket agent in the world)?
- From the consumer’s perspective, what would be the potential advantages and disadvantages of the merger?
- What additional evidence would the Competition Commission require to make its final judgment?
Tea prices have soared in recent months. Explanations can be found on both the demand and supply side. But while this might be bad news for tea drinkers, the news is more mixed for tea growers. So just what are the causes and consequences of the price rises? The following linked articles look at the issues.
Tea prices hit record high as supplies tighten Financial Times (19/8/09)
No break for Britons as tea price set to soar Scotsman (19/5/09)
Tea prices hit record high (video) BBC News (21/8/09)
Price of cup of tea goes up (video) BBC news (17/8/09)
Africa Tea Prices Climb to a Record on Dry Weather Bloomberg (20/8/09)
Kenya Tea Prices Hit Record High Before Ramadan FlexNews (19/8/09)
African tea prices ‘to extend gains’ China People’s Daily Online (18/8/09)
Sri Lanka to revive all closed tea factories ColomboPage (24/8/09)
Land usage should be flexible: Tea panel The Economic Times of India (24/8/09)
For tea price data see:
Tea Monthly Price Index Mundi
- Identify the factors on the demand and supply sides that have led to the rise in tea prices. Draw a diagram to illustrate your answer.
- Under what circumstances will farmers benefit from a rise in tea prices? What is the relevance of the market price elasticity of demand to your explanation?
- If the price of tea in the shops rises, will this necessarily mean a rise in the price to tea growers and in the wages of workers on tea plantations? Explain using concepts of competition and market power.
- What will be the effect of using more land for growing tea on (a) the price of tea and (b) the incomes of tea growers?
The large bonuses received by bankers, often amounting to more than a million pounds, have been contentious for many years. With the banking crisis and subsequent recession, and with both public and government outrage at the size of the bonuses, many thought that the days of such bonuses were over. But such is not the case. “There has been public disquiet that leading banks – which have been seen as a major cause of the financial crisis – have been receiving taxpayer funds, but are not prepared to change their traditional culture of awarding big bonuses to key staff.”
The following articles look at what has been happening to senior bankers’ remuneration in recent months. But what are the market conditions that allow such rewards to continue? Are they a reflection of the marginal productivity of bankers or of their market power, or what?
RBS to keep paying bonuses despite 1bn first-half loss Telegraph (7/8/09)
Lloyds chief plans bonuses for ‘spectacular job’ in making £4bn loss Telegraph (6/8/09)
CS toxic bonuses are up 17%, but gains can’t be realised for four years eFinancial Careers (7/8/09)
Banks: Look, don’t touch Guardian (8/8/09)
Analysis: The plan’s the thing Times Online (7/8/09)
Cutting our bonuses would hit the taxpayer, says RBS Citywire (7/8/09)
France targets bankers’ bonuses BBC News (7/8/09)
Sarkozy weighs into debate over banker bonuses after BNP Paribas compensation sparks anger Los Angeles Times (7/8/09)
Knotting the purse-strings The Economist (6/8/09)
Pay and politics The Economist (6/8/09)
- Explain why many senior bankers have continued to receive huge bonuses. To what extent is oligopoly theory relevant to your explanation?
- To what extent do the size of the bonuses reflect senior bankers’ contributions to (a) the productivity and (b) the profits of their bank?
- If bankers are to be paid bonuses, what is the best form for these bonuses to take? Consider the incentive effects in your answer.
- Should bankers’ bonuses be regulated and, if so, what criteria should regulators use for determining the acceptable size of bonuses?
Reading the first article linked to below, you may be forgiven for thinking that farming has moved into the realms of science fiction. Dairy farming has moved determinedly into the era of technology and now benefits from extensive economies of scale with much higher productivity levels than even a decade ago. Yet 3000 dairy farmers are planning to leave the industry in the next two years and even the largest farms are struggling to make money. The processing sector has become significantly more concentrated and margins are being squeezed ever further by the power of the supermarkets, so has the market become unbalanced with too much power in the hands of supermarkets and processors?
Rising prices, failing farms. The strange story of milk Guardian (24/4/07)
Why British dairy farming is in crisis Guardian (24/5/07)
||Describe the market structure of the milk industry.
||Discuss the extent to which this market structure has changed the level of prices in the market for milk in recent years.
||Evaluate possible measures that governments could implement to make the market for milk more competitive.