IN THE RADICAL PRESS / IL MANIFESTO
Italian ministers have given the OK to afresh wave of privatisations, but to what purpose asks Marco Bersani
Italy’s cabinet yesterday gave the go ahead to place on the Stock Exchange a 40% stake in the Italian Post Office and 49% of air traffic control company ENAV, aiming to raise about 6 billion euros. The stated goal is of course the reduction of public debt: of course the debt will barely budge, dropping from 2.120 trillion euros to 2.114 trillion euros, while annual revenues to the state, given the current earnings the two companies, will fall from 1 billion to 600 million (post office) and 50 to 25 million (ENAV). This is real economic nonsense, revealing the mechanism that underlies all policies of austerity. Privatisation will not cut the public debt, rather public debt- artificially constructed – that allows the pursuit of privatisation.
Heralded as something novel, privatisation and bankruptcy have a long history in our country in the 1990s. They were the war horse of the reigning neo-liberal ideas, to the point that, despite the neo-liberal war on society (deservedly) associated with British Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher, our country, with revenues of 152 billion euros generated for the public coffers, put us second in the world, after Japan, in the ranking of privatisation proceeds.
With the results we all know today: the total withdrawal of the state from the large swathes of the economy, including strategic sectors, the ending of an public role in the economic – financial world, the construction of private monopolies, the drastic reduction in employment and quality of services, and the increase in prices paid by the citizens .
The government of PM Matteo Renzi, particularly with regard to sectors sensitive in terms the universal rights of citizens – such as the Italian Post Office – has launched a propaganda war in favour of a sort of new phase in Italy of popular shareholding for employees and savers; as if history does not prove, beyond all fairy tales about economic democracy, the true role of small investors is to put money in a company only to find big shareholders in control that don’t even have to make the effort to own it.
What is being touted as new is the same old recipe, which with the shock of the crisis, is being revived on a large scale: at risk are companies today owned by the State, but even more so all the riches in the hands of local communities – land, public property, public goods – that big capital, made fat on two decades of financial speculation has decided to lay its hands on, aided by the monetarist policies of the EU and the choices of the neo-liberal Renzi government in Rome.
To counter this and to put in place the coordinates of another model of society and democracy, starting from the re-appropriation of ‘common’ goods, public services and the wealth produced by ordinary Italians, the right to a fair income, to jobs and welfare, today a large, peaceful and colourful national rally is crossing the streets of Rome. Composed of different men and women, each with an eye on the horizon. Without knowing yet how to achieve it, but determined to start walking.
Translation by Revolting Europe