what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Privatisation of public facilities stinks!

I’ ve already confessed on the blog that I was too open-minded in my attitude during the opening stages of Thatcher’s privatisation agenda. Who knows, I mused in the 1980s, perhaps private management skills and more competition can shake up these systems and make them more customer-friendly. Where there was indeed the possibility of competition (telecommunications and energy) the results have been defensible.
Elsewhere (railways, water, health, education etc) the results have been utterly disastrous and we all need to shout this from the treetops. Private ownership or management of public assets stinks!!
Cities worldwide are experiencing the failures of water privatisation. Unequal access, inflated prices, environmental hazards and scandalous profit margins are prompting municipalities to take back control of this essential service. A new book Remunicipalisation – putting water back into public hands from Corporate Europe Observatory, Transnational Institute and the Municipal Services Project examines this growing trend for water ‘remunicipalisation’. Case studies analyse the transition from private to public water provision in Paris, Dar es Salaam, Buenos Aires and Hamilton, and look at a national-level experiment in Malaysia.
The journey toward better public water illustrates the benefits and challenges of municipal ownership, but the book also highlights the stranglehold of international financial institutions and the legacies of corporate control, putting water in the context of the larger debate about ‘alternatives to privatisation’ and drawing lessons from these experiences for future action in favour of public services.

Most of us thought that the global crisis would loosen the grip of corporate power, neo-liberalism and deregulation and make voters more sympathetic to the traditional social democratic agenda. The opposite seems to have happened. We need a better understanding of the reasons for this. In my view there are at least three –
• the crassness of the new breed of social democrats (New Labour and others who chose to make Faustian deals)
• the power of the corporate media
• the sheer scale of the neo-liberal lobbying tentacles

Radical reform is blocked because the crisis has strengthened elite power over governing structures and highlighted the importance of what an important recent paper called "democratic disconnects" .
First, the crisis has discredited banking and finance but it has not disempowered financial elites because crisis has strengthened the power of conservative financial, bureaucratic and political elites within our governing structures. Second, a series of democratic disconnects have disempowered the critics of finance in the technocracy and civil society who have been unable to turn popular hostility into effective reform of finance. The disconnects are such that, after the decline of the mass parties, it is now structurally difficult to convert the radical technocratic agenda or civil society activism into effective policy reform. Our story is of a stifled revolution and the reassertion of power by traditional elites.
For this reason, it is all the more important that successes in driving back corporate power are properly reported. These examples of remunicipalisation are inspiring.

No comments:

Post a Comment