University of Greenwich
PSIRU was set up in 1998 to carry out empirical research into privatisation, public services, and globalisation. It is based in the Business School, University of Greenwich, UK. PSIRU's research is based on the maintenance of an extensive database of information on the economic, political, financial, social and technical experience with privatisations of public services worldwide. The core work is funded by Public Services International (PSI), the global confederation of public service trade unions.
The principal focus of PSIRU’s work is on water, energy, waste management and healthcare, but it also addresses the general questions of the role and structure of public services, both in the EU and in developing countries; the role of multinational companies in globalisation; and the role of the international financial institutions, especially the World Bank. The work of the PSIRU touches on a number of issues, including: corruption, public enterprise, multinationals' labour relations policies, public-private partnerships, political and economic effects of long-term private financing or PFI, pension funds and corporate governance, use of internet and databases for sharing information internationally, social network analysis.
The core work of the PSIRU centres around the following functions:
- Maintaining a database on multinational companies involved in privatisation of public sector activities. This includes monitoring of takeover and merger activities, financial and political developments, and developments in the sectors, covering issues such as concentration of ownership, performance, pricing, financing, employment, political relations, and corruption.
- Maintaining a website at www.psiru.org which allows online access to the database including information on companies, recent news, and PSIRU reports and publications.
- Producing and publishing commissioned and other reports, based on the empirical data collected by PSIRU. These include surveys of developments by region and/or sector eg water in Latin America or Africa, venture capital in healthcare worldwide, electricity regulation in the UK, energy privatisation in central and eastern Europe, corruption and procurement, EU policy initiatives on public services, critiques of World Bank policies, patterns of ownership in a sector, reports on specific companies eg Enron. PSIRU reports can be accessed here.
- Long-term research projects: PSIRU is the leading institute in a 3-year Europe-wide research project, Watertime, examining the decision-making in water systems, funded by the European Commission under the 5th framework programme. It is a partner in a research project funded by the European Commission’s regional policy division, DG Regio, on the impact of services of general economic interest on social and territorial cohesion throughout the EU. Previous projects include a project on corruption, funded for 2 years by the Wallace Global Foundation.
- Other research projects: specific projects are commissioned by various bodies including the ILO,UNRISD, The Work Foundation,European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), NGOs (eg War on Want, Intermediate Technology Development Group,Action Aid), individual trade unions eg in Italy, Austria, Canada.
- PSIRU is also involved in the development of linked databases and research centres in European and developing countries, including specific projects with researchers in Spain, Brazil, India and Philippines. PSIRU is constantly exploring opportunities to develop its research, and is looking at collaborating with a group of European universities in research on public services in Europe.
PSIRU staff present to meetings of a number of international organisations, including the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Parliament, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as national institutions in various countries. In addition to PSIRU’s own reports on our website, which are widely read, PSIRU staff publish papers in academic and other journals eg on energy policy, healthcare, corruption, water privatisation, privatisation and democracy.
Papers are regularly presented at academic conferences, such as the Stockholm Water Symposium, the Development Studies Association, and specific conferences in water, energy, healthcare and other fields. PSIRU staff have made presentations to academic, institutional and trade union conferences on privatisation and related issues all over the world, including in Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Iran, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.