Twenty years, economists will agree, is a good time to take a hard look at big trends sweeping an economy. When those are marked by epochal reforms and churning competition as in India, after 45 years of dominance by the state, it sets an interesting framework for a review of the public sector.
Instead of yet another analysis of how public sector units, or PSUs, have fared, BT decided to spot state-owned enterprises that have done very well. No doubt, these contrast sharply with the way the vast majority of PSUs have fared. Loss-making Air India or BSNL, or NTC whose collapsing mills have finally made way for million-dollar apartments, typically mark the general run of PSUs.
Some of the companies Indian taxpayers own are true gems. Indian Oil, Steel Authority of India Ltd, Coal India, State Bank of India, Oil and Natural Gas Corp., NTPC, and Life Insurance Corp. of India compare with the best not just in India but globally, too. To be sure, there are other performers such as Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, GAIL India, National Aluminium Company and Power Finance Corp., to name just a few, not featured in our special package.
Then, there is the amazing story of Hindustan Copper Ltd, which the government had all but written off about 10 years ago but which came roaring back, making for a valuable asset the government wants to sell a stake in.