The Management of Public Assets

2013 – November Presentation to 46th EAROPH Regional Conference, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

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Each nation has a unique stock of public assets. These assets include the fruits of nature and of the work of previous generations. Governments are stewards of the public’s assets. With them governments generate social capital, deliver and manage infrastructure as well as allocate public resources for the use of public sector entities. The people appointed to manage public sector entities are responsible for managing both the entity’s assets and the public assets for which the entity is the steward.

Accountants and Economists define assets as something controlled by an entity as a result of a past event that brings the potential of services or of future income to the entity.

Social scientists define social capital as social norms, networks and trust that facilitate cooperation within or between groups.

Statisticians define environmental assets as those with an identifiable owner, and the owner must be able to derive an economic benefit from holding or using the asset. Environmental assets that could be considered economic assets for the purposes of a national account include subsoil assets, land, forests, water, and fish stocks in open seas that are under the control of an economic agent, often the government. Environmental assets such as the atmosphere are outside the scope of the national accounts, as they do not have an identifiable owner who can derive an economic benefit from their use.

Scientists define environmental assets as the earth’s ecosystem. Ecosystem services cover the provision of ecosystem inputs, the assimilative capacity of the environment and the provision of biodiversity.

Assets are usually defined within the context of the need to account for and manage assets.