Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

PPPs: Inter-Actor Relationships Two Cases of Home-Based Care Services in China

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

PPPs: Inter-Actor Relationships Two Cases of Home-Based Care Services in China

Article excerpt


Over the past 30 years, initiatives have been taken throughout the world to seek alternatives to traditional methods for the provision of public services. PPPs, an important tool for government reform, have been increasingly implemented since the 1980s (Gibelman and Demone 1983) and have become popular institutional arrangements for supplementing or replacing traditional supply models of public services.

At present, the definition of PPPs remains ambiguous. Some define PPPs in a narrow sense as private investment in public infrastructure, and this has become the focus of most existing research. Others consider PPPs to be a middle way between state and privatization (Leitch and Motion 2003). Savas broadly defined PPPs as any relationship between the public and private sectors, or any arrangement under which the private sector takes up actions traditionally performed by the public sector (Savas 2002: 105). His definition covers almost everything with public and private features, including such arrangements as contract system and joint operation. This paper utilizes a broad definition: PPPs are agreements between the public and non-public sectors, in which the non-public sector participates in public service decision-making, directly or indirectly provides services, and shares risks with the public sector. (1)

The division of public service delivery subjects into providers and producers can be traced back to the late 1950s (Musgrave 1959). Later, the multiple service provision model was put forward (Savas 2002: 69). The service provision under administrative orders model was gradually replaced by the provision through market allocation based on competitive contracts model. As a result, the relationship between the public and private sectors was reconstructed. The multiple service provision model required cross-sector partnerships and collaboration and targeted integration between the public and non-public sectors. PPPs then emerged as institutional arrangements to address these issues (Jamali 2004).

The strengths of PPPs include reduced input cost, improved operational efficiency, better service quality, risk sharing, and maximum use of existing resources and competition. As an innovative path for public service provision, PPPs can bring about more new resources and competition (Domberger and Jensen 1997, Pongsiri 2002, Bovaird 2004). In PPPs, government is increasingly dependent on the external environment to fulfill its mission of providing public services. Most of this work must be completed by coordinating complex inter-actor relationships. The majority of government employees are not in direct contact with personnel responsible for public service provision. The traditional approach of acting alone features limited impact, but the expertise of the public and non-public sectors can complement and balance each other (Linder 1999). Besides, increased efficiency of individual organizations is not equal to the improved overall service of PPPs (Provan and Milward 1995). This may be due to the other organizations' reduced efficiency, or to the poor coordination of different organizations. Government no longer relies solely on traditional hierarchical authority or itself to provide public services (Rhodes 1996), but more on a variety of collaborations and partnerships to establish a network to achieve the goal of public service provision. It's the establishment of reasonable partnerships that can guarantee the strengths and successes of PPPs.

Although Savas included various forms of PPPs in the multiple institutional arrangements for public service provision (Savas 2002: 69-91), he failed to analyze in depth how PPPs should be established. Cooper managed to deepen his research into the quality level in contract management (Cooper 2007: 5), but he ignored that excessive reliance on regulatory management and control, such as special inspection and regulations, might cause confrontations between subjects in the collaborative network, for in this case the principal aimed to find errors, but not to improve partnerships (Goldsmith and Eggers 2004: 106). …

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