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In the past decade, it has become received wisdom that the road to the viability of government-dominated power sectors, especially in the emerging markets of developing countries, is the corporatization and privatization of the state-owned enterprises. The multi-lateral lending agencies and bilateral aid agencies have provided studies, advice and funding to design power sector reforms that unbundled the integrated enterprises, privatize at least the generation and distribution segments, and create independent regulatory agencies to oversee them.

But most of these privatizations-focused power sector reforms have stalled, and some have been abandoned in all but name. In this article, the authors analyze the question of why there is so little to show for the expenditure of so much time, thought and treasure. The authors base their analysis on the experience gained in working in the international power arena since the early 1990s and more important, from being on the ground facing the daily challenges of implementing reform efforts.