A public forum on the Government's partial asset sales plan has been told global forces may stop them going ahead.
Dunedin's Anglican cathedral was almost full for the debate on Tuesday on the proposal to partly privatise four state-owned energy companies.
Otago University professor Robert Patman told the audience the same social forces that have brought down Arab dictators are now turning against what he called crony capitalism in Western countries.
Other speakers said society's poorest people would never see a benefit from the sales but would suffer the greatest costs.
The vice-president of the Institute of Directors, Stuart McLauchlan, said the sales are necessary to free up money for hospitals and schools and to save the local stockmarket from irrelevance.