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A fake ideology of water privatisation

Economist Steve Keen once remarked that neoliberal  economics, although completely false, were a guarantee of promotion in university and government careers. Their value was as an ideology that would justify right-wing policies.

No-where is this clearer than in Ireland. In general around the role of the Economic and Social Research Institute in supporting austerity, specifically in the role of member John Fitzgerald, who criticized water privatisation terms as too soft on workers.

His case is that the opportunity of setting up the new company could have justified mass sackings, which he claimed would have saved €2 billion.

Otherwise all is gain. The state will immediately "free up" €500, take 2% off GDP, and "ramp up" inward investment. He admits this is an accounting trick and that assets are being sold at reduced cost, but this is the norm for privatisation.

So a major asset is to be sold at reduced cost. This will mean an influx of capital from bondholders looking for a bargain. We will pay their dividends by paying for water we used to own.

The good professor neglects the end of the story. Serious concerns have been raised about some water boards in Britain. Their capital has been financialised and leveraged to cover investment in the far East. The amount of capital involved dwarfs that available to maintain a water supply and any sudden financial shock could lead to the collapse of the company.

The reality of privatisation as a simple smash and grab operation is hard to disguise, yet mass privatisation is occurring without a murmur - the privatisation of Bord Gais went through silently, with the board able to pick and choose which workers to retain.

There is no resistance because the leaderships of the   Labour party and the trade unions signed up to privatisation many years ago. Socialist and community groups run protest campaigns, but protest cannot turn into resistance if we fail to answer the Professor Fitzgeralds of this world or if we close our eyes firmly to the treachery of the union bureaucracy.


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