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posted 20 Apr 2012, 13:55 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 20 Apr 2012, 13:56 ]

The National Workers Union (NWU) is concerned but not surprised at the government’s intention to retrench workers at the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) as their programme of privatisation gets underway.

The National Workers Union (NWU) warned the country as far back as November 2011 that the government was committed to a policy of privatisation as enunciated by Minister Dookeran.

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.”

In his speech on Public Private Partnership at the Hyatt on Tuesday November 1st, 2011 the Minister of Finance spoke of privatising public utilities, ports, airports, health care provision and pensions. He also spoke about having private partners deliver public benefits.

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.”

This privatisation policy is based in the advice given by the IMF in its December 2010 Article IV consultation report which advised the government 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 has been in the country since November 2010 and according to Minister Dookeran has done assessments on state enterprise rationalisation and worked on the actual mechanisms for privatisation.

It seems that the IFC has completed its work and the privatisation programme is off and running. The Minister informed the nation in his 2011-2012 budget speech that the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company will be merged with the Home Mortgage Bank and divested (TTMF) as will First Citizens Bank. Minister Dookeran also stated that PLIPDECO is to be divested. In his November 1st speech at the Hyatt, the Minister of Finance also said that seven un-named state enterprises will be privatised. Of course the prize plum for the foreign predators is Trinmar.

According to the website of UPSTREAM, an international oil and gas news source: “Companies believed to be interested in upstream opportunities at Trinmar include Indian giants Oil & Natural Gas Corporation and Reliance Industries, which has discussed building a heavy oil upgrader in the country.” (http://www.upstreamonline.com/hardcopy/article1245119.ece)

WASA seems to have been chosen as the pilot project in the move to privatise public utilities. Soon it may be the turn of T&TEC, TTPOST, PTSC, the Port of Port of Spain and other public goods providers to be privatised with massive job losses.

On February 9th the National Workers Union made the following statement: ‘WASA has signed a contract with Aquagest Solutions (a subsidiary of Agbar), a Spanish transnational. According to WASA this company “will conduct...audits, review the organisation’s processes and analyse selected business models to determine the best model for the organisation,”

The government’s policy to privatise public utilities is underway and WASA’s obscene, frantic drive to collect arrears at the risk of disconnection is clearly a ploy to clean up the books to make it more attractive to a foreign predator.’

The National Workers Union (NWU) condemns the proposed retrenchment at WASA and stands in solidarity with WASA workers and their unions in their struggle to defend their jobs

The National Workers Union (NWU) warns the country that privatisation will lead to increased foreign control of the economy and will cause massive job losses and bring hardship on the working class

The National Workers Union (NWU) repeats its call first made on February 9th 2012 for the convening of an all-union Conference of Shop Stewards and Branch Officers (COSSABO) to “discuss the implications of the government’s privatisation thrust and to make recommendations on how to beat back and defeat that policy.” 

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Gerry Kangalee (National Education and Research Officer – Cell: 785-7637)
Gerry Kangalee,
20 Apr 2012, 13:55