May 20, 2010

Summer reading: two experts on privatization


Policy Note has asked CCPA Research Associates who contribute to the blog to suggest some ideas for summer reading.  I am going to cheat a bit by suggesting two books.  I am going to cheat even more by admitting I haven’t read one of them.

I spend a lot of my time reading and writing about public private partnerships and privatization, mainly in British Columbia.  Dexter Whitfield has spent a lot more time thinking about these issues than I have.  Whitfield is the founder and Director of the European Services Strategy Unit, an organization that studies the provision of quality public services by democratically accountable governments. 

Whitfield’s latest book, published this year, is Global Auction of Public Assets: Public Sector Alternatives to the Infrastructure Market & Public Private Partnerships.  The book is a massive collection of data on privatization of public services around the world.  Whitfield ties privatization to globalization and looks at infrastructure as a new wealth machine for international corporations.  He outlines how things that used to be considered essential public services are becoming just one more chip in the international investment casino.  He also outlines many of the projects that have failed dramatically and been bailed out publicly.

The book I haven’t read is Public Service, Private Profits: The Political Economy of Public Private Partnerships in Canadaby John and Salim Loxley.  I recommend the book on the basis of John Loxley’s previous work looking at P3s in Canada.  It is a long awaited and much anticipated bringing together of a decade of work on the topic by the authors.  Loxley was one of the speakers at an early forum on P3s in Vancouver and his comments can be found here.

So far I have not succeeded in getting my hands on Loxley’s book and that is one of the problems with my recommendations.

Whitfield’s book is not even available in Canada but it is worth the effort to get it.  You will need to order it directly from Spokesman Books in the UK through their website.

Loxley’s book can be ordered from Fernwood Publishing through local bookstores but Indigo tells me it takes five weeks.  It would probably be faster to buy it directly from the publisher here.

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