Thursday, June 08, 2006

Multinationals: Hands off our water (2)

On Monday, I drew attention to a Daily Telegraph piece by Kendra Okonski, of the International Policy Network, on the need for an even more 'free market' approach to water provision.
It's good to see DT readers were as underwhelmed as I was by her arguments.
Here's what C.D.Button from East Sussex had to say:

I fundamentally disagree with Kendra Okonksi. Water is a basic element essential to life. It should not be in private hands and subject to the vagaries of the commercial market. There is ample water available on this isalnd as a whole. The government and successive administrations should be working towards a state-owned national grid- however long it takes and however much it costs.

Yesterday, in my Morning Star article on Tony Benn's book Arguments for Socialism, I commented on how millions of Britons could not understand why our country does not have a national water grid. The answer of course, is an absence of long-term strategic planning. It's time to ditch outdated free market dogma once and for all and for the state to provide this country with the up-to-date infrastructure it is so sadly lacking.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Neil,

What's happening now is a consequence of the failure of the original privatisation process. The Thatcherite libertarian anarchocapitalists who've infested the Conservative Party leadership since the mid '70's believe that everything should be privately owned. At the moment I'm looking for a conservative option to replace my Conservative vote, and am thus very much in favour of private ownership; however, the way in which they proceeded with privatisations showed them to be rabid ideologues of the Right.

For example, one of the foundations of successful Anglo-Saxon capitalism is the right to own private property unmolested. The companies that formed, say, British Airways were effectively stolen from their shareholders. If the Thatcher era Conservative Party had truly respected private property they would have found a way of compensating those original shreholders by offering them BA shares at a discount or some other measure. Instead, they papped the whole lot on the market. If the nationalisation process was theft then a lot of the privatisations equated to handling stolen goods, as both depended on state power for their success.

In the case of water, that did not apply. The water systems had always been public, so if the state is an economic actor in its own right it could do what it wanted with them. If the political will to both privatise water and improve delivery had existed, a means to do both was there - the government kept a 'golden share' in all the companies, giving it absolute rights. If they had said, OK, we privatise but you must invest in repairing the network, with no dividend payable for 3/4/5 years, it's likely investors would have been happy; the shares would have had a massive capital value, on the basis that repair bills down the line would be minimal and profits, and dividends, higher.

They didn't do that, instead turning over massive PLC's to the management of well-meaning, mid-ranking water board civil servants, who became captains of industries overnight.

And now you're living with the consequences.

Sorry to ramble so.