Public Interest Services Revisited
24 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2002
Date Written: 2002
The provision of utilities for all at an affordable price has long been regarded as a prerequisite for everyday life, generally guaranteed by the state. But in recent years, publicly-owned utilities throughout Europe have come under increasing fire for their poor performance - their lack of productive efficiency, their failure to identify consumer demands, and their wanting service innovation. As a consequence, and driven by the influence of neo-liberal thought, many public monopolies have been or are in the course of being, privatized, and utility markets are being deregulated. The experience of reform measures, instruments and institutional arrangements allow us to tentatively take stock of the situation with regard to the quality of service provision. Are the public-service goals of accessibility, security, continuity and affordability still in place in the countries that have undergone reform? If so, to what extent have they been achieved and what are the differences between sectors and countries? What are the underlying causes?
The paper presents the empirical data on service provision in two sectors, rail and telecommunications, and three countries, the UK, Germany and France. Possible explanations for the level of performance are discussed. In another step the general explanations are discussed in the light of the empirical data.
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