Safeguarding the public interest

The decision on whether to privatise a public task should be based on the answer to the question of how the public interest can best be safeguarded – in the public or in the private sector. This is the key finding in the WRR report Safeguarding the public interest (Report no. 56, 2000).

Public interest or not?

It is the government that decides which social interests are public interests. If it is not a public interest, the social interest can be left to the private sector. If ultimate responsibility does lie with the government, there are various ways in which it can safeguard the public interest. The WRR looks at these options against the background of internationalisation, the rapid expansion of ICT and the process of professionalisation.

Treat privatisation with caution

In general, the WRR recommends a circumspect approach to privatisation when a large number of interests and actors are involved. If the government decides to proceed with privatisation, it should exercise strict control. The involvement of private actors creates an important new role for the government, that of market regulator with the task of imposing conditions and monitoring compliance with them.