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Public services sell-off 'no impact' on efficiency

Rebecca Martin · 7 Sep 2011, 13:08

Published: 07 Sep 2011 13:08 GMT+02:00

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According to Laura Hartman of the Swedish Centre for Business and Policy Studies (Studieförbundet för Näringsliv och Samhälle -SNS), authorities initially had high hopes with the scheme.

“Bureaucracy was expected to diminish, as well as the problems with efficiency that was plaguing the public services. Quality and democracy would be strengthened due to an increased choice for citizens,” Hartman wrote in an opinion piece in daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

But in the study, Hartman and her co-workers fail to see these hopes made real over the last twenty years.

In DN, Hartman wrote that Sweden has gone from being a country with substantial public service monopolies to increasingly allowing private, for-profit companies operate in the public sector.

According to Hartman, almost a fifth of all employees within the public sector are now working for private companies. Within the care-sector about 50 percent are privately employed.

Private pre-school employees make up 20 percent of all pre-school staff in Sweden and within Swedish school and elderly care systems, privately employed staff make up 10 percent.

When Sweden has privatised its public sector, the public financing has generally been kept while the implementation of the services has been contracted out.

In the study the authors reviewed existing research and statistics pertaining the public sector.

They were shocked to find that there is very little evaluation of the effects of the privatisation on Swedish society.

“From existing research it is not possible to find anything supporting that the reforms of the public sector has brought with it the great quality and efficiency improvements that were hoped for,” editor of the study, Hartman, said in a statement.

Story continues below…

What is needed is extensive follow-up research and an evaluation of the system, according to the researchers.

“That 20 years have passed without a systematic evaluation of privatisation policies is unacceptable. Many within the welfare system are in a vulnerable position and they have the right to the best possible service within the framework of welfare goals and resources that we have agreed to,” Hartman wrote in DN.

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:47 September 7, 2011 by StockholmSam
Public services should be privatized with the stipulation that a minimum level of increase in efficiency (say, 10%) must be attained within a certain time (7 years) or else the operation will return to public ownership. As it now stands, service has not improved and we cannot regain ownership of those services. Too bad, so sad.
15:01 September 7, 2011 by Opinionfool
Sweden should have looked to the example of England, especially Thatcher's privatisation of public services, then run in the opposite direction away from any such stupidity. As an Englishman one of the aspects of Swedish culture that I love (and long to see here instilled in my homeland) is the social responsibility ethic; not the "me me me" of English politics but the "us and them" that makes Sweden great.
15:53 September 7, 2011 by StockholmSam
A related topic I find interesting is the privatization of the pharmacy industry. I was really looking forward to greater selection and better prices, but neither have materialized. Heck, even Boots entered the market with much fanfare but when I visited the Boots in Hornstull, I found it filled with the exact same products (at the same prices) as the Doc Morris across the street and the Apoteket next door. Really sad statement on Swedish culture that they cannot gain diversity. Look at their cafés...all the same chocolate balls and dry cinnamon buns no matter which one you choose.
16:11 September 7, 2011 by engagebrain
Some things like energy, water and railways are too important to allow the privte sector to bugger them - as Opinionfool says look at the UK - profits galore, obscene executive salaries but prices are higher and services deteriorate.

Privatisation is even worse than state control - a least you can vote the politicians out.
17:01 September 7, 2011 by Addendum
The best care I've received has come from private doctors outside of Sweden. In Sweden, you're left to die and told to leave the country. Medical dictatorship.
17:14 September 7, 2011 by Grokh
if by efficiency you mean people going in for a check up and waking up without boobs or a nut, and proffit up then sure
18:07 September 7, 2011 by Brtahan
And ofcourse this research is funded by the ruling party who want sell most of the govt sector , so that the rich can put whatever price they want! and the middle class and the poor gets screwed! what happens with privatization , wages drop so that the rich gets richer ,price sky rocket , same reasons.
19:18 September 7, 2011 by B*tchslap
Um, Brtahan, somehow I don't think this study was funded by the ruling party. If you actually read the article, you get the sense that privatization has not worked as promised.
21:47 September 7, 2011 by Brtahan
Haha ,this happens when i read the comments instead of the article, but the point of privatization is still the same, making things private is like making greed take over control. Money will be first in all situations.
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