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REALLY, MR. ANNISETTE? by Dave Smith

posted 3 May 2014, 06:25 by Gerry Kangalee
General Secretary of the National Workers Union, Dave Smith sent the following statement to the editor of the Trinidad Guardian:

I would like the opportunity to respond to the President General of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union, Mr. Michael Annisette, who, in your letters column of 27th April 2014, wrote in glowing terms about the benefits of privatisation.

Whilst much of his letter dealt with the mechanics of how the people's assets were sold off at bargain basement prices in the First Citizens Bank IPO, the real issue has to be Mr. Annisette's justification of the whole process.

In criticising the anti-privatisation position of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), Mr. Annisette says:

“Comrade Cabrera has deprived some of his members of a unique opportunity to own a part of this iconic and profitable state enterprise and to create personal wealth for both themselves and their immediate families.”

The point that this misses is that BIGWU members working at the FCB, along with the rest of us, already own the bank. It is difficult to see how you can be invited to buy what you already own.

As a state enterprise, and a very successful one at that, the FCB belongs to us all and the profits generated ought to be available to spend on improving public health care services, education, the roads infrastructure and any other investments of benefit to the community as a whole.

This possibility has been diminished, of course, with the sale of 19.3% of FCB. Money that should be contributing to improvements for all of us is now being used for the benefit of those new shareholders who are seeing significant increases in their “personal wealth”, as espoused by Mr. Annisette, at the expense of the rest of us.

The loss of benefits to the majority of us is clear.

Shares sold for TT$22 on Monday 15th July 2013 almost immediately hit a high of TT$42. Without lifting a finger these new shareholders almost doubled the value of their shares. If only an increase in wages could be so easy.

Reports are that dividend payments will be semi-annual, and range between 45 and 55 per cent of the profit after tax. With FCB's 2013 Annual Report showing a profit after tax amounted to $606.5 million some $121 million that could be used to improve public health care is being taken by the few at the expense of the many.

The Credit Suisse Research Institute's '2011 Global Wealth Report' shows that less than 1% of the world’s adult population own 38.5% of global household wealth. This grossly unequal distribution of wealth is typically reflected in most countries.

By moving assets from the public to the private sector, which is what happens when Governments privatise our state enterprises and contract out work, we are adding to the gap between the rich and poor.

Rather than selling our public assets, the Government should be taking in to public ownership key parts of the economy, such as the balance of the oil industry, natural gas and the banks, so that the wealth of the country can be used for the benefit of us all and not the profit of the few.
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