In this article an arrangement of concepts intended as a framework for analysis of a public enterprise system is portrayed. This conceptual structure delineates a broad array of ideas in the general context of the dichotomous policy approaches of government intervention versus laissez‐faire and, on an organisational basis, between the meanings of “public” and “enterprise”. The result is a taxonomy of elements of public enterprise, delineating particular aspects of a public enterprise system. Finally the author suggests a practical way to operationalise the model, by selecting one key expression from the set of dichotomous terms which was deemed to be a proxy for the general meaning conveyed in the conceptual structure. This one expression, centralisation/autonomy, lent itself well to the design of a questionnaire survey to “test” a given public enterprise system. The Singapore system was tested in a pilot exercise.
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