Quote of the week
“We expected, and found, a negative depiction of government in general.”
— Attitudes Toward the Public Service
An Australian report tells us that while the media in that country may occasionally quote public servants as being “hard working,” it more often will refer to them with epithets like “fat cat bureaucrats” and “lazy.”
But the same report shows that citizens don’t agree with this negative stereotyping, and that they see an important role for government in delivering services.
One section reports on citizen views regarding the role of government, positioning the discussion as “big government or contracting state.” In other words, a government that is responsible for delivering services or one that gets other sectors to do the work for it.
The document shows that there is a “clear preference for public provision,” with over 80% of citizens surveyed saying that governments should deliver health and education services. This finding may cause U.K. Prime Minister Cameron to think again about his plan to offload much of these services to privately-run or community-run enterprises. Even in Australia, the report notes, “(o)utsourcing and privatization occur despite and contrary to these preferences.”
The report – a rollup of other studies – also shows that citizens are willing to pay for the state to provide these services. This too seems to fly in the face of much of today’s political discourse, which argues that government is too expensive and needs to work with others to get the job done.
The study notes that it would seem citizens don’t distinguish between their views of the pubic service and their views of state-based service delivery.
It also indicates the citizens have more confidence in the public service (40%) and government (39%) than the private sector (30%).
For governments who want to offload services, the findings can mean one of two things. Be careful before you go down this road, as citizens don’t seem to be on the offloading and privatization page. Or, step up the rhetoric to convince them it’s the way to go.