A new Blockchain-based model to reverse dysfunctional privatizations.
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When I wrote tokenization” is mainly associated with securities, equities and real assets, and it indicates the creation of a digital token that represents different types of rights — such as ownership, right to some economical payment, voting, etc. — connected with the underlying asset. The token is normally issued on a blockchain.
In the proposed model, the tokenization is necessary to “translate” economical rights connected with the public asset in a digital format that can be easily distributed to stakeholders and to which smart contract provisions can be attached in order to guarantee the automatic enforcement of certain provisions key to the incentives.
The strategic public asset (‘A’) will be transferred into a Oracles” must be in place as well.
More “skin in the game” can also be given by requiring the contractors to subscribe to an interest-bearing government bond in percentage of the contract value. This government bond can be also ‘tokenized,’ thereby ensuring an additional recourse against the contractor, should it be in breach of contract obligations or of its guarantees/warranties or maintenance periods. This bond will be held as a collateral in a smart-escrow. While its function is similar to that of a traditional performance-bond — where a bank guarantees performance on behalf of the contractor — the difference here is that the state bond does not have a cost for the contractor, and it benefits, in a virtuous cycle, both the government and the contractor which receives the interest payments. The flexibility that can be achieved by programming different features in that digital bond is another key advantage.
Aligning private contractors´ incentives is only part of the game, while influencing the state´s behavior is much more difficult. To do so, we have to create the right set of governance tools. The main concern here is to avoid that the state wastes money and to make sure that it efficiently allocates the revenues generated by the asset. Therefore, a proper set of governance rules for the SPV and all the stakeholders are essential in this model.
The first step shall be to earmark the revenues generated by the SPV to be either (i) spent in maintenance or (ii) reinvested in new infrastructure or (iii) distributed to the token-holders. The percentage of redistribution of the residual profits can also be programmed differently in the smart contracts in order to maximize incentives — for example, by rewarding the most diligent contractors with higher percentages.
The second step shall be the creation of governance bodies.
In this model I have conceived three governing bodies, the Treasury, the Asset Committee and the General Assembly:
- The Treasury receives the revenues from the SPV and, in compliance with its mandate to earmark the revenues as indicated above, it allocates the funds as indicated by the Asset Committee.
- The Asset Committee shall be constituted by representatives of the state, of token-holders and of technically qualified professionals in the specific sector of activity. The Asset Committee decides how to spend the revenues of the SPV, based on a set of priorities and reports received from third-party controllers, auditors and technical experts on the conditions of the asset (i.e., maintenance and/or new investments).
- The General Assembly is composed by all stakeholders, and it will vote the composition of the Asset Committee and perform an ex-post supervision of the allocation of the funds done by the Asset Committee.
Interestingly, my colleague Karl Michael Henneking at Untitled-INC has introduced the concept of Proof of Quality Management (PQM), which is basically a rating mechanism to evaluate how efficient the Asset Committee has been in allocating the funds. Essentially, a rating index — reflecting the status of the asset — can be created by comparing the sums invested with the levels of satisfaction expressed by its users and with the reports from the auditors and technical experts. Simply, the more the funds invested and the lower the feedback received from stakeholders, then the lower the rating and therefore the performance of the Asset Committee will be. Vice versa, the lower the sums invested and the higher the feedback reports received, then the higher the rating and the performance of the Asset Committee will be.
While the limitations and dysfunctions of past privatizations are now apparent and ever more publicly questioned, the need for a new approach and a new model for managing key public strategic assets becomes ever more pressing. The interest with which my first proposal has been received was, for me, a pleasant surprise and the enquiries received from a number of public administrations — including from Nigeria regarding the possibility of using this model to reverse the privatization of its electricity grid — brings me hope that something will change in the future and that new technologies, such as blockchain/DLs and smart contracts, will be instrumental to the creation of this new model.
My hope is to see this model applied anywhere there is need to economically and effectively manage public strategic assets without blindly leaving them in private hands nor in wasteful public hands. A new and more balanced model of management for strategic public assets and services is now at hand.