Former prime minister Tony Blair has appeared at an international summit hosted by Russian president Vladimir Putin, where he has argued in favour of more private sector outsourcing.
“I think the role of government today is far more about setting a strategic direction, but delivering things is where government is weak and I favour today much more public-private partnership,” he told his international audience.
“I think we can use voluntary organisations, community organisations much more, and government should be smaller and smarter and more strategic.”
Mr Blair spoke alongside Russian government ministers and finance bosses at the Putin-backed St Petersburg Economic Forum.
Most Western businesses tend to avoid the summit, which is a competitor to an annual gathering in Davos.
Despite the former PM’s advice, the public-private partnerships Mr Blair implemented while in office in Britain have had a troubled legacy.
Private finance initiatives (PFI), heavily used under the last Labour government, have left the UK’s treasury with a £222bn debt, the Independent on Sunday reported in April.
The huge debt however only yielded assets valued at £56.5bn, meaning the Treasury ended up paying around four times as much for the deals as it would have had to up front.
Tony Blair: A career of controversies
Tony Blair: A career of controversies
1/11 The Tony Blair 'selfie'.. A journalist takes a picture of Kennard Phillips 'Photo Op', depicting Prime Minister Tony Blair taking a 'selfie' in front of an explosion in Iraq, during a press viewing of the exhibition Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War
2/11 Protesters pictured outside the QEII Conference centre in London in 2011 as former British PM Tony Blair give his evidence in the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry
3/11 David Lawley-Wakelin, who disrupted Tony Blair’s testimony at the Leveson Inquiry by bursting into the court
4/11 Blair giving evidence
5/11 Tony Blair visiting troops in Iraq in 2007
6/11 Blair meeting with troops in Basra, Iraq in 2003
7/11 Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks to British soldiers at Divisional Headquaters in Basra, May 2007
8/11 British Prime Minister Tony Blair eats dinner with British troops in Basra, Iraq, 21 December, 2004
9/11 Syrian president Bashar El Assad during his official visit to the United Kingdom in 2002. Mr Blair tried to engage Mr Garcia in a conversation about Syria. The former Prime Minister made clear he was very much in favour of military intervention last summer.
10/11 Syrian president Bashar El Assad and wife Asma during their official visit to the United Kingdom in 2002. Mr Blair tried to engage Mr Garcia in a conversation about Syria
11/11 Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's signature adorns a program he signed for an Iraq veteran during a reception at the Guildhall in London following the service of commemoration at St Paul's Cathedral honouring UK military and civilian personnel who served in Iraq
Other high profile public-private partnerships, such as an attempt to impose such a structure on the London Underground, also ended in failure.
Mr Blair however insisted that private sector involvement could be beneficial. He told the audience it was important that countries made an effort to accommodate big business.
“You should have predictable rules for doing business, you need the basic rule of law including protection of property rights, the absence of corruption, the ability to start a business easily, government not weighing down on business but helping create the right business environment,” he said.
“These things are not difficult to describe, they are just difficult to do. But they are absolutely necessary.”
A spokesman for Mr Blair's office said: “Mr Blair participated in a panel discussion about the need for government reform. He discussed leading reform programmes and improving the delivery of public services, having established the Delivery Unit while prime minister and worked on the issue of governance since leaving office.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content