The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas has a piece blaming privatization for snow-related delays at Britain's Heathrow airport. She writes, "Heathrow's Spanish-owned private-sector operator, BAA, has skimped on its capital investments....BAA had no motive to over-invest for a predictable emergency."
She doesn't mention that New York City's non-privatized government roads are in pretty terrible shape. She writes of Heathrow: "The episode shows that government should view an international airport as more of a public-sector loss leader, a role that outweighs its standing as a potential profit center in the eyes of private-sector concessionaires."
I disagree. Wal-Mart does a pretty good job of clearing snow from its parking lots. Obviously, not everything that's privately run is perfect. But not everything publicly run is perfect, either.
The Daily Mail article that Ms. Gelinas cites reports that "Gatwick, which is owned by a group of international investment funds, has more vehicles than Heathrow, with the first of two new snowploughs delivered last weekend. Gatwick is spending £9 million on new vehicles."
It also reported, "At Schiphol in Amsterdam, 98 snowploughs and snowblowers were in action. Although the airport was shut for periods last week, it maintained the best record of flight clearances in Europe."
Schiphol is operated by a private company. If Ms. Gelinas is going to blame privatization for the failure at Heathrow, shouldn't she also credit privatization for the successes at Schiphol?
A lot of times when privatization has problems it's because it isn't a full privatization — i.e., a total sale of the airport — but something less than that, such as a long term management contract.