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(en) Freedom 6405 8 Mar, 2003 - Welfare for the wealthy

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 4 Apr 2003 09:23:32 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Privatisation takes many forms, from the earliest
under Thatcher to Labour's preferred method, the
Private Finance Initiative (PFI). But all the forms
have one thing in common - corporate welfare. Put
simply, the public purse pays for what is laughably
called private sector 'expertise'. The only difference
between the public and private sectors is that the
private sector has more ruthless senior managers,
who are consequently paid more than the backbone
of the Labour Party that is public sector
management. The alleged expertise that the private
sector brings costs more.

Under some schemes, private investors take a risk.
Following conventional capitalist economics, they
demand a greater return on their money for taking it.
A cursory glance at recent cases of PFI hospitals and
prisons, as well as at Railtrack and British Energy, all
show that this risk is non-existent in the case of the
Private Finance Initiative. Its non-existence doesn't
prevent the government from being prepared to pay a
premium for it, however.

Either Chancellor Gordon Brown is a very stupid man
or there's something else going on. Of course, this
'something else' is that our old friends from the
international financial institutions Ğ the
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and so
on - have a view on how economies should be run. It
isn't just the IMF either. All the big accountancy
firms do too - respected names like Arthur Andersen
and Price Waterhouse.

Even the palest pink social democrat knows that you
can't run a major economy like Britain's with the
appalling level of investment that's been put into
public services in the last 20 years. But Gordon
Brown also knows that he'd be spotted if he invested
directly in public services. So, rather than risk any
sanctions from the Bretton-Woods gang, he opts for
privatisation, even though it's inefficient, morally
repugnant and more expensive.

Once we understand this, we can see why it's only
Brown, Prescott and the companies who stand to
profit who think the Public-Private Partnership on
London's Tube is a good idea. It isn't, any more than
the various Structural Adjustment Programmes
forced on Africa and Latin America have been.

In some areas of work, the private sector has no
experience whatsoever. In these, they simply buy out
public expertise. We're all familiar with scandals like
the one in Southwark Education. The Director of
Education in this South London borough was
headhunted by Atkins, an engineering company who
subsequently won the contract to run Southwark's
education for profit. His pay doubled overnight.

But this isn't just about fat cats. In many areas of
council and government work, the assets are the
workforce. They've been trained by the public sector
and are then pushed into the private sector to make
profits. In some cases they're even paid better,
though there's always relentless pressure. For
example, when the Tories forced councils to put
services out to compulsory competitive tendering in
the 1980s and 1990s, most contracts were won by
local authorities' existing teams because there was
no realistic competition in, say, building repairs,
housing benefit, social services and council tax
administration. Where there was or could be (in
competing for large scale building projects, IT
support, refuse collection and so on), many contracts
went to private companies.

Since Labour came to power in 1997, this has
changed. Central government and local authorities
have actively connived to transfer more work to the
private sector. Many of the big names in
privatisation, such as Capita (which oversees
London's new driving tax), make regular donations to
the Labour Party. Some have even closer links. One
example is Service Team, set up by managers and
Labour Party bigwigs from Lewisham Borough
Council, also in South London.

Those on the left who still believe that Labour has
any 'organic connection to the working class' should
just look at the machinations of managers in all
areas as they try to carve out some little empire from
which they can launch a buy-out when they go
Martin H.

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