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The Commonwealth development Corporation (CDC) was launched with all-party support as one of the initiatives to build a better post-war world. After a troubled start it earned its role as Britain's development agency. The chairmanship of Lord Reith in the 1950s left a legacy of robust independence within the public sector framework. Few public sector businesses escaped privatisation by the Conservative Governments of the 1980s and 1990s, yet CDC was exempted. The first privatisation announcement of the New Labour Government in 1997 was in respect of CDC and enabling legislation has since been passed to provide for a long-term public-private partnership. The compatibility of a continuing development role with meeting the requirements of investors is still controversial as CDC adapts its operations to those of a private equity fund for emerging economies. Sir Michael McWilliam has written a study of institutional transformation that reflects changing perceptions of the role of development agencies. His membership of the CDC Board and access to its records give authority to this appraisal and to the discussion of the proposed privatisation.
SIR MICHAEL MCWILLIAM KCMG was a member of the Board of Commonwealth Development Corporation from 1980-86. After a career in banking leading to the post of Chief Executive of Standard Chartered Bank from 1983-88, he was appointed Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies from 1989-96 and is an honorary fellow of the School. Sir Michael is chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society and of The Royal African Society.