Sunday, August 14, 2022
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Privatise: disenfranchise a majority to enrich a tiny minority

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Juan García. Member of Atacc Catalunya. Ricardo Gómez. Member of Atacc Catalunya in Madrid

"End This Depression Now!" is the title of Nobel prize-winner Paul Krugman's book, published in 2012. Nevertheless, the crisis continues, because the policies that lengthen it are very useful. The perfect excuse for cuts / privatisation. In a process that, unless public outrage retracts, advances inexorably.

It is not a blind evolution. It responds to the will of the plutocrats (well-connected families with large fortunes, top executives and controlling shareholders of large companies) that increase their power and privileges, in partnership with the politicians installed in power and senior technocrats / bureaucrats. The neoliberal project. Sustained by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (WB), the World Trade Organization and the Bilateral Treaties, EU governments, from the Central Government and from the Autonomous Regions...

Its logic was defined by the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, "stabilise, privatise and liberalise" the mantra of a generation of technocrats with sharpened teeth in developing countries and political leaders who advised it. Since the 70s it is imposed on developing countries. A one-size-fits-all policy. Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of BM, sometimes explains "they forgot to change the name of a country in the recommendations to another." Despite giving worse results than the failed policies of "import substitution", they were so beneficial to the plutocrats, who also imposed them on the hegemonic countries from the 80s until today.

In Spain, there were only authentic public enterprises after the death of the dictator. Before that, they were nothing more than a modus vivendi to rescue private businesses and place them at the service of the regime.

However, promoting public companies did not last long, because from the 80s the neoliberal project progressed. Between ourselves, the entry into the EU conditioned privatisation policy, criteria were marked by partisan politics and the "revolving doors", cronyism and appeasement between politicians and senior officials of the governments of PSOE and PP. Of course, these companies were operating in the territory of Catalonia. There was no state policy, as in other European countries, to maintain strategic sectors (banking, energy, telecommunications, transport,...).

From the 60s to early 80s, 17 public companies had been privatised in Spain. However, in the 13 years of the González epoch, over 70 were. And in the 8 years of Aznar's time, another 50, but amongst them, all the major highly-profitable companies, including service monopolies. The governments of Aznar, by unorthodox means, applied the proceeds to reduce the current account deficit, which allowed fraudulently meeting the requirements of Maastricht, and participating in the nucleus of the Euro. Another neoliberal disaster.

They only held on to some transport infrastructure such as railways and airports. And essential public services. But it would be their turn soon.

2. Competencies and incompetent: from the State to the Autonomous Regions

The role of the public companies and services is to address citizens' rights at a reasonable cost. However, global plutocracy believes that "governance" requires limiting such rights. Neoliberalism, the ideology of the non-existent perfectly-competitive market, and the chant of the incompetent father-State justify the project.

A bother for this project. Everywhere the people have a strong preference for public services. Okay. If you cannot privatise all at once, do it in batches. Privatised aspects that are not considered essential. Cleaning, maintenance, computer networks... Commodified first and then privatise the management. Enter the mixed public-private ownership. Afterwards, publicly-funded private ownership. And finally, you eliminate the very idea of public services. Private services for those who can pay. If possible, of large foreign companies. Privileges are better defended with international organisations and diplomatic means, without worrying about public opinion and democratic mobilisation. Let there be no rights other than those of money. Incentives other than money. And the money that is not in the hands of the plutocracy.

Between ourselves, unlike the UK, France or Germany, privatisation does not respond to a plan, but rules made up for each specific case. The few serious studies on the efficiency of public services compared to private show no advantage of the latter, rather the reverse. It doesn't matter. For that, there are well-paid intellectuals who teach "ideological criteria" and the politicians who believe them. The financing of the most corrupt politics does the rest.

On the other hand, the responsibility for essential public services, under the 1978 Constitution, are largely transferred to the Autonomous Regions. But funds to meet them dependent on the central government. That has perpetuated a funding gap.

So, from 2010, austerity, with the excuse of the crisis, has slashed the funding. Quality loss that this leads to those who can pay going to the private sector. The resulting deterioration of service is partly hidden by that fact. Unless a parallel sector is introduced, even in public or private centres, in which case waiting lists lengthen and service worsens.

In any case, the pure public service is increasingly geared towards impoverished sectors, which have no choice. The ultimate goal: an anemic public sector, pure charity.

Let's see what the Catalan institutions do with some essential public services.



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