Can the Blockchain and Token Economics Fix Privatizations?

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When I wrote this article about the dramatic collapse of the Morandi Freeway Bridge in Genoa, I did it out of anger. Though it was apparent to me that the roots of this tragic celebration had been to be uncovered in the completely wrong privatization product and its completely wrong incentives, I did not still comprehend how this was a global problem. In the perception that the discontent and the failures of privatizations are a globally phenomenon — little acknowledged, mostly unacknowledged and not often debated.   

Indeed, a speedy net search under the search phrases “unsuccessful privatizations” success in a prolonged list of global failures — any place from Europe, to Africa, the United States, South The us and Asia. This Columbia University paper and the Michael Hudson paper “Permit us glory in inequality” are well worth reading through.

Privatizing condition-owned property or condition-operate solutions and capabilities has been an quick alternative for governments to elevate cash to contribute fixing their budgets. If privatizations might effectively enhance the performance in which some property or solutions are managed — any time such property or solutions are subject matter to totally free market forces and opposition — there are privatizations which rather change a condition monopoly with a privileged lease-extracting personal monopoly, which is shielded from totally free market opposition. In apply, the condition transfers its privilege of extracting rents — with a general public asset or a services — into the palms of a rich personal investor. This is the draw back of privatizations, in particular in so-known as “natural monopolies” or with essential strategic property or solutions which the general public is compelled to use devoid of any different alternative. This sort of is the circumstance, for occasion, with toll roadways, water, normal health and fitness solutions, electrical grids or prisons.

Dissatisfaction for such a product of privatizations has fuelled several phone calls to reverse them in several nations such as — for illustration, in the United Kingdom about its dysfunctional railway program or the water and fuel sectors.

In another fascinating exploration paper, the author, Mildred E. Warner,  emphasizes:

“The privatizations experiment of the 80s and 90s has unsuccessful to deliver [….] This has led to reversals. But this reverse privatization method is not a return to the aged product […] In its place, it heralds the emergence of a new, balanced posture, which brings together use of markets, deliberation and scheduling to achieve conclusions which might be both equally effective and much more socially optimal.”

Then suddenly it occurred to me that what I did elaborate — instinctively and out of anger right after the events of Genoa — is accurately what is required globally to obtain this new “much more balanced posture.” So I went to work yet again on that preliminary proposal and the result is this article, which expands on the use of the blockchain and token-economics as a practical product to reverse completely wrong and dysfunctional privatizations in strategic general public sectors.  

I also wish to thank my fellows Thomas Euler and Karl Michael Henneking, who furnished me with useful feedback and tips on the governance for this new product. Considering the fact that the crypto space is relocating at a fast speed, I assume to see regular new developments and impressive strategies on this subject. Consequently, I regard this product as remaining quite “fluid” and subject matter to foreseeable future modifications and enhancements.

Applying token-economics

Although the origins of token-economics can be traced back again to the early 19th century — in the field of psychiatric experiments — the phrase is now usually borrowed by the crypto earth to refer broadly to a program of financial incentives utilized to affect stakeholders´ behavior towards a predefined virtuous product that rewards the entire program. Token-economics is a department of the social experiments, and it does not differ from regular economics, apart from that it seems to be carefully at behavioral economics and activity principle in order to offer the correct financial incentives to drive personal behavior.

Creating a blockchain/DLT-based mostly program to manage strategic general public property

The template underneath can be utilized to general public property or solutions that are strategic to the society as a entire and would be greater not remaining only in personal palms but, preferably, the condition shall generally retain at least the handle of such property/solutions in order to defend the society from the implications of abuses by personal operators. This sort of property are, for illustration, critical water sources and its supply infrastructures, electricity plants and grids, general public roadways, minimal healthcare solutions and infrastructures, and prisons.

The Tokenization: Equity or protection token?

The phrase “tokenization” is mainly affiliated with securities, equities and serious property, and it implies the creation of a electronic token that represents unique sorts of legal rights — such as possession, correct to some inexpensive payment, voting, and many others. — connected with the fundamental asset.  The token is commonly issued on a blockchain.

In the proposed product, the tokenization is vital to “translate” inexpensive legal rights connected with the general public asset in a electronic structure that can be effortlessly distributed to stakeholders and to which smart contract provisions can be connected in order to guarantee the computerized enforcement of selected provisions essential to the incentives.

The strategic general public asset (‘A’) will be transferred into a special-goal vehicle (“SPV”). In this article there are significantly two selections:

Alternative one particular is to tokenize the shares of the SPV by issuing equity tokens which integrate possession legal rights, voting and profit-distribution legal rights through smart contracts.

Alternative two is to problem protection tokens — not representing equity participation in the SPV — but merely an financial correct to share the gains of the SPV.  

The big difference among the two selections are: (i) in alternative one particular, equity tokens are issued, and consequently the corresponding possession portion of the SPV and ‘A’ are also transferred (ii) applicable company law will dictate the voting legal rights belonging to shareholders and, as a consequence, to all equity token-holders. This will very likely decrease the adaptability of the governance. Additionally, since applicable company law also dictates the formalities for the transfer of the shares (such as companies’ registries and general public notaries), these “serious earth” methods enormously complicate the reconciliation among the equity tokens issued digitally and the fundamental share certificates, therefore impacting on the adaptability and the automatic execution of smart contract provisions.

Therefore, I arrived to the summary that the 2nd alternative is greater since: a) ‘A’ and the SPV keep on being generally 100 percent in general public palms b) the protection token issued does not symbolize equity in the SPV but merely the correct to a financial payment c) even if this is still a protection for the goal of securities legal guidelines software and compliance, the issuer will have quite few constraints in coming up with the financial legal rights connected to it — as perfectly as their purpose in the governance (i.e., voting legal rights) d) the issuance is not confined by actual physical possession like in alternative one particular (i.e., one particular share-one particular token) or by the value of the shares, but only by the profitability of the SPV-’A’ or, if insufficient, by the willingness of the condition to action up to guarantee for the shortfalls e) such protection tokens can also be airdropped to essential stakeholders and/or thoroughly auctioned to traders, need to the condition need to elevate cash to possibly acquire back again the asset or pay penalties to personal traders in the circumstance of reverse-privatizations or,  if vital, to revoke earlier granted personal concessions over general public property. In summary, alternative two appears to be merely much much more adaptable.


Principal stakeholders and monetary flows

The primary stakeholders will then be:

  • The condition which owns the asset.
  • The citizens who use the general public solutions/property.
  • The servicing and services contractors.
  • Token holders.

Economical flows will be:

  • Costs created by the ‘A’ and collected by the SPV, such as tolls for general public roadways or utility payments.
  • SPV´s payments for servicing solutions and repairs.

Blockchain and DL

In my to start with proposal, I advocated for the use of a general public blockchain with open entry.

Some commentators have also disputed the need for a blockchain in that product. Some confusion is created all over the phrase ‘blockchain.’ This phrase is now commonly utilized to refer to pretty a great deal any type of distributed ledger (DL) and definitely not only to the to start with and purest variety of blockchain, which is the Bitcoin protocol. Therefore the use of a blockchain/DL in this product fundamentally indicates generating an asset accounting program of the data stored.

Considering the fact that the way DLs can be crafted is both equally modular and optional, there is no need in this article to establish a 100 percent permissionless and decentralized blockchain like Bitcoin. Some capabilities can be decentralized, when other individuals can be centralized. Also, centralization can still be positively motivated by governance provisions in order to guarantee much more distributed supervision and handle.

Additionally, no matter what type of blockchain/DL and consensus protocol are adopted to make this product work, this continues to be a technical problem, which is outside the house the goal of this article and which will be solved by technically proficient men and women other than myself. What is vital to note in this article is that it need to guarantee mainly (i) transparency and (ii) immutability of the data stored. This indicates that the Stakeholders need to be able to entry all documentation about, for occasion, the financials of the SPV, servicing payments, protection studies, engineering studies, general public tender methods, payments from contractors, and many others.  Everything need to be under the mild and open to general public and governmental scrutiny, and details need to not be transformed or corrupted by any stakeholder. This is a perfectly-acknowledged problem. When dramatic events like these in Genoa occur, essential proof and documents suddenly disappear from the servers.

Token-economics and the correct incentives for stakeholders

A balanced program of financial incentives and governance equipment is vital in order to positively affect the behavior of essential stakeholders, such as the contractors, the auditors and the condition alone. The contractors are an vital part of it. Much too frequently, in particular in general public procurement careers — such as general public roadways, for occasion — the poor ailments of the work performed and of their subsequent servicing standing are of terrific issue to all the citizens. In the best circumstance, this is both equally a indicator of the state´s incapability of controlling its methods and of holding the contractors accountable for the lousy careers performed. In the worst circumstance, this is a indicator of corruption.  

To hold the contractors accountable, they have to have an financial curiosity in the good operating and good servicing of the asset which generates the revenues. This can be performed by making sure that contractors “have pores and skin in the activity.”

In addition to remaining compensated in installments at the reaching of milestones, as is usual, contractors will also be compensated-in-form with the tokens issued by the SPV. This assures that the contractor retains an curiosity in the continued functionality of the property. In circumstance of disputes, the general public administration will have an extra recourse towards the tokens allocated to the contractor, which can be mechanically repossessed or burned through smart contract provisions. Plainly, dispute-resolution mechanisms and so known as “Oracles” have to be in spot as perfectly.

Additional “pores and skin in the activity” can also be provided by demanding the contractors to subscribe to an curiosity-bearing authorities bond in percentage of the contract value. This authorities bond can be also ‘tokenized,’ therefore making sure an extra recourse towards the contractor, need to it be in breach of contract obligations or of its ensures/warranties or servicing durations. This bond will be held as a collateral in a smart-escrow.  While its perform is equivalent to that of a regular performance-bond — wherever a lender ensures performance on behalf of the contractor — the big difference in this article is that the condition bond does not have a price tag for the contractor, and it rewards, in a virtuous cycle, both equally the authorities and the contractor which gets the curiosity payments. The adaptability that can be obtained by programming unique features in that electronic bond is another essential gain.

Governance equipment

Aligning personal contractors´ incentives is only part of the activity, when influencing the state´s behavior is a great deal much more difficult. To do so, we have to produce the correct set of governance equipment.  The primary issue in this article is to steer clear of that the condition wastes cash and to make positive that it effectively allocates the revenues created by the asset. Therefore, a good set of governance guidelines for the SPV and all the stakeholders are vital in this product.

The to start with action shall be to earmark the revenues created by the SPV to be possibly (i) spent in servicing or (ii) reinvested in new infrastructure or (iii) distributed to the token-holders. The percentage of redistribution of the residual gains can also be programmed otherwise in the smart contracts in order to improve incentives — for illustration, by rewarding the most diligent contractors with greater percentages.

The 2nd action shall be the creation of governance bodies.

In this product I have conceived a few governing bodies, the Treasury, the Asset Committee and the Common Assembly:

  • The Treasury gets the revenues from the SPV and, in compliance with its mandate to earmark the revenues as indicated above, it allocates the cash as indicated by the Asset Committee.
  • The Asset Committee shall be constituted by reps of the condition, of token-holders and of technically qualified industry experts in the unique sector of activity. The Asset Committee decides how to commit the revenues of the SPV, based mostly on a set of priorities and studies obtained from 3rd-occasion controllers, auditors and technical authorities on the ailments of the asset (i.e., servicing and/or new investments).
  • The Common Assembly is composed by all stakeholders, and it will vote the composition of the Asset Committee and carry out an ex-article supervision of the allocation of the cash performed by the Asset Committee.

Curiously, my colleague Karl Michael Henneking at Untitled-INC has introduced the concept of Evidence of High-quality Management (PQM), which is fundamentally a rating system to evaluate how effective the Asset Committee has been in allocating the cash. Effectively, a rating index — reflecting the standing of the asset — can be developed by evaluating the sums invested with the concentrations of pleasure expressed by its users and with the studies from the auditors and technical authorities. Just, the much more the cash invested and the lessen the feedback obtained from stakeholders, then the lessen the rating and consequently the performance of the Asset Committee will be. Vice versa, the lessen the sums invested and the greater the feedback studies obtained, then the greater the rating and the performance of the Asset Committee will be.



Though the limits and dysfunctions of earlier privatizations are now obvious and at any time much more publicly questioned, the need for a new solution and a new product for controlling essential general public strategic property becomes at any time much more urgent. The curiosity with which my to start with proposal has been obtained was, for me, a enjoyable surprise and the enquiries obtained from a variety of general public administrations — such as from Nigeria about the likelihood of employing this product to reverse the privatization of its electric power grid — delivers me hope that anything will adjust in the foreseeable future and that new technologies, such as blockchain/DLs and smart contracts, will be instrumental to the creation of this new product.

My hope is to see this product utilized any place there is need to economically and effectively manage general public strategic property devoid of blindly leaving them in personal palms nor in wasteful general public palms. A new and much more balanced product of management for strategic general public property and solutions is now at hand.


Andrea Bianconi is an intercontinental small business attorney with over two a long time of encounter, a scholar of Austrian Economics, financial background and geopolitics, a believer in the foreseeable future of Bitcoin– and blockchain-based mostly technologies a guide to the sector and a speaker/panelist at conferences and events. He is a member of the think tank Untitled-INC and an lively contributor to the Berlin Blockchain Hub and the German Blockchain Bundesverband.

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