From the inbox comes word that Paul Devlin’s documentary, Power Trip, will be aired this weekend on BBC World and in the PBS World Voices program. The film tells the story of the efforts of AES Corporation to succeed as the owners of the newly privatized (in January 1999) electric utility in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
Several years ago, in a post on politics and documentary film, I called Power Trip “one of the best documentaries I’ve seen.” I said:
The film offers a perspective on capitalism and corporations hard to get in the Western world, because in the West so much of the institutional framework is taken for granted. In the beginning only 10 percent of Tbilisi customers were paying their electric bills, because they were used to power being “free” (i.e. provided by the government). Of course, electric power was also unreliable (unless you had good political connections). In Power Trip you can get a flavor of such abstract phrases as “institutional framework,” and why they might matter to making the world a better place.
Should be required viewing for international development professionals and students of comparative economic systems, development studies, or the economics of institutions. Actually, everybody should go see it.