Sunday, June 16, 2013

The scourge of privatization of public enterprises

When I was a young lad and at a very impressionable age, I was schooled in the thinking that privatization leads to greater efficiency. I was taught that privatization brings greater benefits at lower costs, due to the inherent superiority of capitalism at work. When the government in Malaysia started to privatize one utility after another, I failed to see at that time what this was leading to. It gradually lead to massive outflow of wealth into the hands of a few private individuals. Yes, capitalism was certainly working very hard; but only for the benefit of the exclusive few. It was more like milking the economy for what it was worth.

I see the same thing happening in Australia, a first world country. I also see it happening in all the other developed countries, except perhaps in Singapore. The impact to the population is the same; costs keep rising as a result of privatization. In my work at the post office, people come in to pay their utility bills with wads of money. It is not unusual to see a few household bills add up to hundreds of dollars. At the same time, the same people might withdraw (usually) anything from $10 to $200 for their personal use. I cannot help but feel the bondage of modern slavery playing out before my eyes when I observe the huge difference between what goes into discretionary spending and what is fed into the ever growing profit margin of the privatized companies.

The problem with privatized companies making all the profits is that wealth being transferred over to private hands no longer returns to the public in terms of other public benefits, such as building infrastructure for a growing population. Ironically, the growing wealth in private hands only serves to bolster inflation, thus further aggravating the situation. So why is the government in such a hurry to privatize whatever is left to privatize? Your guess is as good as mine.

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