Privatization Watch - 06/2017

Launching on the opening day of the High Level Political Forum at the United Nations in New York this new global report assesses how privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to progress under the 2030 Agenda.

"In the 2030 Agenda governments committed to a revitalized Global Partnership between States and declared that public finance has to play a vital role in achieving the SDGs. But in recent decades, the combination of neoliberal ideology, corporate lobbying, regressive fiscal policies, tax avoidance and tax evasion has led to a massive weakening of the public sector and its ability to provide essential goods and services. The same corporatized strategies and fiscal and regulatory policies that led to this weakening have enabled an unprecedented accumulation of individual wealth and increasing market concentration.

The proponents of privatization and public-private partnerships (PPPs) use these trends to present the private sector as the most efficient way to provide the necessary means for implementing the SDGs. But many studies and experiences by affected communities have shown that privatization and PPPs involve disproportionate risks and costs for people and the public purse. PPPs can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services and jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights.

Therefore, it is high time to counter these trends, reclaim public policy space and take bold measures to strengthen public finance, regulate or reject PPPs and weaken the grip of corporate power on people’s lives. In short, to put ‘people over profit’. These are indispensable prerequisites to achieve the SDGs and to turn the vision of the transformation of our world, as proclaimed in the title of the 2030 Agenda, into reality.”

The 160-page report is supported by a broad range of civil society organizations and trade unions, and based on experiences and reports by national and regional groups and coalitions from all parts of the world. Its 35 articles and textboxes cover all sectors of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and reflect the rich geographic and cultural diversity of their authors.

Reclaiming Public Service: How cities and citizens are turning back privatization is vital reading for anyone interested in the future of local, democratic services like energy, water and health care. This is an in-depth world tour of new initiatives in public ownership and the variety of approaches to deprivatization.

The horrific fire in London that killed at least 79 people and injured dozens more has raised fundamental questions about government oversight of public housing, privatization of key safety functionsderegulation, official indifference toward poor and working people in gentrifying neighborhoods, broken government oversight of the multiple contractors responsible for repair and safety, the class politics of austerity and deregulation, and stressed out public service workers in underfunded downsizing agencies.  Among the issues raised is the privatization of inspection regimes, a trend which is also seen in the United States.

Speaking of the London Grenfell fire, Ben Bradford, a fire safety expert who is managing director of the risk consultancy BB7, said “that the partial privatization of the building inspection regime sometimes led to a ‘race to the bottom’ to reduce fees and limit the number of safety inspections carried out.” The essential point, architect Deon Lombard writes, is that “public safety should not be privatized. Putting a monetary value on human lives is unacceptable.”