Global Auction of Public Assets

Global Auction of Public Assets: Public sector alternatives to the infrastructure market & Public Private Partnerships

Global Auction of Public Assets

Dexter Whitfield

Public infrastructure in the 21st century is confronted with new challenges – adapting to climate change, meeting the economic, energy, water, transportation and social infrastructure needs of megacities in Asia, megaregions in North America, European city regions and older industrial areas.

Yet public provision is under threat. Public infrastructure supports economic development, increases productivity, generates employment, creates opportunities for production and supply chains in construction, manufacturing, services, and improves community well-being. It provides basic human needs – homes, water, energy, transport, hospitals, schools, sports and cultural facilities, communications networks, courts, prisons, civic and governmental buildings.

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and the global infrastructure market, financed by investment funds and pension funds, are fuelling a new era of public asset sales. Already, the refinancing and the sale of equity in PPP projects has led to the buying and selling of public assets furthering exploitation and profiteering.

Yet over US$500bn of PPP projects have failed, most have little democratic control or transparency. They are costly, poor value and lack innovation. Ultimately, they are entirely financed by government and/or user charges. This is the first critical global analysis examines PPP programmes in the UK, France, Ireland, Germany, the US, Canada, Russia, Australia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Global Auction of Public Assets proposes a new strategy for public investment. It sets out new priorities, radical changes in global financial markets, abandonment of PPPs and neo-liberal ideology, new controls on existing PPPs, new public sector contracts and public management reform. It calls for alliance building and joint community/trade union intervention to develop a new, authentic, vision for public infrastructure.

This is a definitive analysis and an invaluable resource for all those concerned about the future of the public domain.

384 pages, January 2010, Spokesman Books, Nottingham. 45 Tables and Charts, over 650 references. ISBN 978 0 85124 773 1

£18 for single copy, £15 each for two or more copies. Bulk rates for 5 or more copies on request Download leaflet and Order Form for this new book

eBook edition of Global Auction of Public Assets now available

Global Auction of Public Assets is now available in eBook format, price £11.99 from Spokesman Books, a saving of £6.00 on the paperback price. Further details and to access download go to:

Order online at Spokesman Books.


Nick Grant, Socialist Review, January 2010

“Dexter Whitfield has now brought all his excellent previous analyses of these issues together in this essential handbook. His forensic account of the manner in which global public assets have been sold off or exploited, and how we could recover from neoliberalism's excesses, is an indispensable tool for every trade union, environmental and socialist activist.”

United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs) report on Public-Private Partnerships and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Fit for purpose? (2016) has this statement on Page 1:

“Whitfield (2010) provided a survey of PPPs around the world, showing how the model has been adapted to the economic, political and legal environments of different countries in Europe, North America, Australia, Russia, China, India and Brazil. It also examined the growing secondary market in PPP investments, “buying and selling schools and hospitals like commodities in a global supermarket” (p. 183) as well as the increasing number of PPP failures, usually as a result of investors’ “miscalculations; states pick up the tab when they walk away”. It found cases of deceptive techniques of assessing value for money (VfM) and manipulations of risk transfer so that PPPs appear to out-perform traditional public provision. Most importantly, Whitfield claimed that PPPs undermine democracy by systematically reducing the responsibility, capability, and power of the state.” 8.pdf

Michael Barratt Brown, Red Pepper, Issue 170, Feb-March 2010 (

“…one of the most well-informed and effective critics of the whole programme of privatisation of Britain’s public services....thoroughly researched and immaculately presented”

“The analysis in this book is closely related to the latest developments in world-wide financial crisis and in governments’ responses to the dangers of climate change......It is a pretty well unanswerable case that Whitfield mounts in defence of the public sector, and well worth quoting for its wide-ranging assembly of the evidence.”

John Bissett, Irish Left Review, February 2010

“This book is probably the most comprehensive survey of global PPP infrastructure ever written. It is an empirical tome of information that will stand as a core reference for years to come when anyone seeks out the extent and scale of PPPs throughout the world.”

“…a sobering analysis of the past three decades of global privatisation of public assets and infrastructure and yet at the same time an impassioned argument in defence of public services remaining in public ownership”

Duncan Bowie, Chartist, March/April 2010

“…an impressive study which demonstrates the extent to which the selling off of public infrastructure has become common practice.”

“…this kind of evidence based research is important if we are to rebuild a system of service planning and infrastructure delivery which is based on public needs rather than private profit, whether in the UK or in other countries.”

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – New book challenges privatization claims, Keith Reynolds, 31 March 2010

“....intensively researched and detailed book.....outlines how over the last three decades major international corporations have fought to turn public services that meet basic human needs into commodities to be traded.”

“....documents the growing importance of infrastructure around the world, because of both the “infrastructure gap” and future infrastructure needs that will be brought on by climate change.”

Keith Reynolds, CCPA Research Associate, Policy Note- a progressive take on BC issues

“…a massive collection of data on privatization of public services around the world. Whitfield ties privatization to globalization and looks at infrastructure as a new wealth machine for international corporations. He outlines how things that used to be considered essential public services are becoming just one more chip in the international investment casino.”

Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives Monitor, October 2010

“Whitfield outlines how Western countries slashed their spending on infrastructure, thus creating an “infrastructure crisis.” Neoliberal governments then looked to private investment to solve the crisis through public-private partnerships. “Infrastructure spending,” says Whitfield, "didn't just fall, it was a result of public and fiscal decisions on taxation, user fees, and spending priorities.” Most important, the book describes how P3s undermine democracy – Keith Reynolds, CCPA Research Associate.

Stewart Smyth, Queen's University Management School, Belfast review in International Journal of Governmental Financial Management Vol. X, No 2 2010, p87-89

“Whitfield’s work is firmly rooted in the critique of Neo-liberalism that he and others such as David Harvey have been developing for many years. Infrastructure projects have been subject to the kind of financial engineering we have seen in the banking sector in recent years. This includes financialisation, gearing, marketisation of assets and the growth of a secondary (re-sale) market.”

“A great strength of Whitfield’s book is the uncovering of the links between this global policy aspiration and real examples of PPP projects. In the process he exposes the myriad of connections between banks and financiers, global construction and management companies, consultants and policy advisors.”

Hugo Radice, University of Leeds, review in Capital & Class, October 2011

“PPPs have been central to the ‘new enclosures’ that neoliberalism has pursued, and Whitfield shows clearly how the public sector, and the public at large, have been boxed in to a strategy for infrastructure provision that seriously threatens our economic and ecological future. This book is an excellent guide to this largely invisible part of the neoliberal revolution, providing us with the detailed understanding that we so urgently need if we are to combat it effectively.”


The Guardian Public Online: 10 December 2009, Profiteering from public private partnerships

A lack of transparency and disclosure has led to a secondary market in investment funds for PPP projects, with some operated from offshore tax havens. Does profiteering from the sale of equity make a mockery of democratic control and more importantly erode public service values?

Village Magazine (Politics, News & Culture), Ireland, December 2009 – January 2010, page 26: The PPP Mistake: Public sector alternatives to the infrastructure market and Public Private Partnerships in Ireland, the US and worldwide (not yet available online).

Truthout – independent news & political analysis, Friday 15 January 2010, Op-Ed, Global Auction of Public Assets

A Change in the Role of Government, Dexter Whitfield assesses the role of Infrastructure UK and the proposed Green Investment Bank, Chartist, May/June 2010.


PPPs – Partnership or Plunder?

In a detailed interview Dexter Whitfield describes the damaging effects of so-called Public Private Partnerships. He outlines why they are a disastrous way to provide essential services and he details a democratic alternative to PPPs. Interview by Alex Doherty, New Left Project ( ip_or_plunder/)


A video of the webcast of the Demos Forum, New York event on 16 February 2010 with Dexter Whitfield, author of Global Auction of Public Assets and chaired by David Callahan, Demos International Program Director and Senior Fellow (79 mins).

Launch events and presentations
Details of events and lectures in Britain, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden. Further dates to be added.
2009-11-24 15:41:22
Press Release
Publication of Global Auction of Public Assets
2009-11-24 15:26:46
Global Auction of Public Assets Glossary
Glossary of 140 terms
2009-11-03 20:01:29
Dexter Whitfield 2014 CV
Summary cv
2009-11-24 15:19:41


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This document was created by Chris Croome on 2009-10-21 14:21:00.
This document was last modified by Dexter Whitfield on 2016-03-09 15:37:22.
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