It is more than 40 years since Chile’s Pinochet, UK’s Thatcher and USA’s Reagan brought us large-scale privatisation of public services, extended by the IMF’s structural adjustment and the World Bank’s conditionalities to developing countries.
The privatisation experiment has not been about ‘greater efficiency’, but about weakening the role of government and reducing the rights of all people.
Public Services International and its affiliates have experienced first-hand the legacy of this huge social experiment - greater inequality, social instability, loss of faith in our democratic institutions, and governments too weak and timorous to challenge the growing power of corporations.
Privatisation’s false promises underpin the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Financing for Development policies. The G20, World Bank and OECD are bending over backwards to repackage old and sour privatisation wine in new bottles. And the corporate lobby is salivating at the prospect of endless profits from public services.
However, local governments are increasingly disillusioned with privatisation’s false promises that don’t deliver universal access to quality public services in their communities. More and more cities are taking privatised services back in public hands. Remunicipalisation is a growing trend, as are alternative forms of local public service delivery.
Paris took back its water utility in 2010 after 25 years of for-profit management. Since assuming control, the city has been able to lower water tariffs by 8% between 2011 and 2015 (as compared with the 260% rise between 1985-2008). Citizens and workers are active in board structures and the water utility advances social and environmental priorities. More than 100 French cities have taken their water utilities back in hand, including Grenoble, Montpellier, Rennes and Nice.
water utilities in France
was the rise of the tarif in Paris along a 25-year period the service was kept under the control of a private company
is how much citizens have been paying since Paris took back its water utility
have remunicipalized the control of their water - including Grenoble, Montpellier, Rennes and Nice
Recently, the Government of Cameroon decided not to renew its private water contract, as the privateers have been unable to meet contract requirements to extend services.
The city of Delhi in India established public community health centres in poor neighbourhoods, as they were not being served by the privatised health providers. At moderate cost, they have brought free healthcare to at least 2.6 million of Delhi’s poorest residents.
In Australia, the state of Queensland created its own fully renewable publicly-owned energy company in order to meet its commitment to produce 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
The City of Barcelona did not renew the contract to the private energy provider and created public Barcelona Energia to implement the city’s renewable energy policies.
On World Public Service Day, PSI declares that the privatisation debate is not outdated. We oppose the ideology that hands our collective resources over to for-profit corporations and turns all people into mere consumers, devoid of rights.
The cold, hard fact is that private, for-profit companies are inherently unable to deliver universal access to quality public services, not for people, nor for the planet.