The news has been full of stories today as to how the British Government ‘under-priced’ the Royal Mail when it was sold off, costing the taxpayer something between £750m and £1.5bn in lost revenue. The implication being of course that if the sale had been ‘correctly’ priced, then all would have been good. This completely ignores the fact that most privatisations involve a cut-price transfer of assets from the public sector (ordinary people) to the private sector (usually people who are already wealthy), which is therefore, in effect, legalised theft from the poor by the better off.
Those who support privatisation will of course talk about ‘competition’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘cost savings’. However those things, even when they do apply (and they don’t apply to the Royal Mail which was already profitable and operating in a competitive market), are only short term benefits, and in the longer run costs go up and service standards go down, as the companies seek to keep increasing their profits at the expense of ordinary people.
At least the Royal Mail isn’t an ‘essential’ public service. A similar debate was had last week when the government announced an enquiry into the energy market, after allegations it isn’t operating ‘properly’.* This of course pre-supposes that a ‘market’ is the right way to provide energy to people at all, which of course it isn’t. Prices for essential services (like water, electricity, gas, healthcare) should be set by need and on ability to pay, not how much ‘profit margin’ a private company thinks it deserves, or how big a bonus the fat-cat boss wants to pay himself. It is criminal that in the 7th richest country in the world people still die of cold in the winter, or have to decide between cooking their food or heating their home as energy costs are so high. Currently health care is provided on a needs basis by the NHS, but with some ministers already suggesting a £10/month ‘health insurance’ fee, and constant government statements about how the NHS in its current form is financially ‘unsustainable’, you can be sure NHS privatisation is the next thing on their list.
The population has been misled into believing that because some public sector functions have a history of mismanagement and waste, therefore the solution is to privatise everything. This has turned into a cash-cow for the financial sector which therefore supports this policy vehemently. People need to understand that what’s actually happening is we are now all becoming the victims of daylight robbery. For more on the inherent faults in privatisation click here.