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posted 11 Nov 2011, 10:33 by Gerry Kangalee


The National Workers Union (NWU) extends full solidarity and support to the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) in its struggle against the intention of the Peoples’ Partnership (PP) government to privatise First Citizens Bank (FCB). 
NWU endorses the position of BIGWU that the proposed divestment is a continuation of PNM policy and is designed to facilitate increased foreign ownership of local financial institutions in the wake of the re-entry of RBC into the country. 

This policy is patently absurd in light of the widespread fraud and rip off of depositors and subsequently taxpayers’ bailout funds at home and abroad. It makes no economic sense to divest FCB to the very institutions that have proved themselves interested only in concentration and accumulation of capital to the detriment of social welfare and equity. 
The NWU questions the logic of divesting shares owned by the state on behalf of the collective citizenry under the pretext that you are involving the people in what they call a shareholder democracy. 
In a society divided into haves and have nots, divestment actually weakens what little influence the masses have and strengthens the position of the rich and powerful. Who have more corn does feed more fowl. 
The NWU reminds the population that in last year’s budget speech the Minister of Finance announced the restructuring of the home mortgage market by transferring state mortgages to a newly established Mortgage Bank with TTMF and Home Mortgage Bank as subsidiaries. 

The intention is to get NIB out of low cost housing mortgages as co-owner with the state of TTMF which is contrary o the National Insurance Act which establishes a DUTY under section 23(1) on the NIB to invest its funds in such securities as set out in the first schedule which authorises the NIB to invest in “Mortgages and other titles for repayment of loans secured by any of the securities described at paragraphs 1, 3 and 4.” 
When public offerings are made of the newly structured company, big business will make a killing and what is left of low cost housing business will go by the board. This will also have implications for the job security of the members of BIGWU at TTMF.

The NWU calls on the labour movement and the wider population to be aware that the PP government is committed to the policy of privatisation of state enterprises.

In a speech delivered at the AMCHAM Conference held on Wednesday 10 November 2011 at the Hilton Minister Dookeran said “state enterprises should now be rationalized to allow for equity offerings to the public. That is a policy directive.”

That policy is not derived from the economic realities but is based on an ideological commitment to neo-liberalism which promotes privatisation; downsizing of the public sector in terms of number of workers and supplying public goods and services; wage suppression and de-regulation. 

  In the 2011-2012 budget speech the Finance Minister said: “We envisage a second phase of the programme which would involve, where appropriate, the implementation of further public offerings or the securing of strategic investors for some of those enterprises.”

This policy of giving away the people’s patrimony to big business is rooted in the advice given by the IMF in its last Article IV consultation to strengthen the public enterprise sector by inviting private sector participation, and accelerate privatisation, with assistance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.

The IFC, according to Minister Dookeran is here, has done assessments on state enterprise rationalisation and is to work out the actual mechanisms for privatization.

In his speech on Public Private Partnership at the Hyatt on Tuesday November 1st, 2011 at a conference in part sponsored by the IFC the Minister of Finance spoke of privatising public utilities, ports, airports, health care provision and, curiously, pensions. The Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation Limited is one of those being offered to big business. According to Dookeran, a further seven enterprises are to be privatised.

The proposed privatisation of FCB is, therefore, not an isolated or one-off event, but is part of a policy of placing citizen-owned economic assets into the hands of big business and particularly foreign corporate interests.

NWU calls upon the labour movement and the citizens of T&T to strenuously resist this backward policy that is designed to prop up a collapsing capitalist system and bring hardship on workers and citizens by affecting workers’ job security and eroding the sovereignty of our country in the interest of parasitic capitalists at home and abroad.


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Gerry Kangalee (NWU National Education and Research Officer - 785-7637)

Gerry Kangalee,
11 Nov 2011, 10:34