Author Archive

Stefan Fölster

Stefan Fölster is Director of the Reform Institute and Associate Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm.

Most governments know a lot about their debt but little about their assets. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, as governments mobilized to manage their public debt, they largely ignored their public assets. Some countries, such as the Baltic states and Portugal, took steps to appraise their wealth, but most did not. The United States, for example, chose not to participate in a 2011 initiative by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to evaluate the size and composition of state-owned firms in member countries. But a better understanding of public commercial assets — defined as government property that generates profit, such as state-owned firms, real estate, and forests — could help yield significant amounts of wealth …