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Everything for Sale: Privatization in Trinidad and Tobago: Part VIII by Dr. Godfrey Vincent

posted 21 Dec 2020, 14:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Dec 2020, 14:45 ]
As have been documented in Parts I to VII, (see SIDEBAR) the sale of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) became part of government’s public policy of all the governing regimes from 1980s to the present. What are the lessons that we can learn from the pursuit of this policy?

1. Privatization of SOEs has meant the reinforcement of neo-colonialism in this dispensation of neo-liberal globalization. This does not mean that in the era of the welfare-state or “Controlling the Commanding Heights” of the economy that the country was less neo-colonial. What has changed is that the new “Transnational elites,” who are managing the state on behalf of their imperialist bosses, have joined in the struggle to crush the working class, and working people in order to maintain the rule of the global and local elites.

2. During the struggle to engage the governments to nationalize industries, there were those on the left who were of the view that the creation of SOEs would lay the platform for the creation of socialism. They were very elated that the creation of SOEs meant that the state wrested control of the economy away from the capitalist class. What became increasingly clear was that even though the state controlled the “Commanding Heights” of the economy, it still remained a peripheral capitalist state.

3. National ownership of resources did not translate to citizens’ ownership of resources. The state created the Corporation Sole to account for the “Petro-dollars” but the distribution of those dollars did not flow to the communities where those SOEs were located. The citizens living in Point Fortin, La Brea, Marabella Guyaguayare and surrounding neighborhoods did not have a seat at the table in any decision-making on how the oil-dollars could positively impact their communities. This caused Black Stalin to pen “Piece of Di Action” because he recognized the disparities of income inequality that existed in the nation.

4. While the ruling elites basked in the sun because of the ownership of SOES, the state engaged in the practice of privatization in the oil industry it controlled. In these enterprises, a large number of contractors were employed to provide services to these companies. Over time, this laid the groundwork for the private sector to call for the privatization of these industries.

5. The Trade Union movement, while it engaged in the struggle for the nationalization of industries, did not wage a concerted and consistent struggle to place the discourse on a new type of ownership structure front and center on the agenda; although radical elements in the Oilfields Workers Trade Union began to examine the question but were eventually suppressed and eliminated by Errol McLeod. This left the door open for the proponents of privatization to promote their false claims that selling off SOEs would widen ownership participation in the society.

6. Decisions like privatization of SOEs are made by a handful of individuals within and outside of the government. While the political parties urge citizens to engage in “democracy” by exercising their right to vote, it is clear that citizens are not called to engage in serious matters that affect their daily lives. Therefore, we are constantly voting against our interest. We vote for the PNM, the NAR, the UNC, the PP; but the transnational elites through IMF, World Bank, their control of the financial and production systems and their accepted ability to apply armed force and wage asymmetrical warfare are subverting our democratic rights and freedoms.

7. The rump of the hydrocarbon industries that are the nation’s foreign-exchange earners are up for privatization. When these resources are sold, the ability to earn foreign exchange will be severely reduced and will be more dependent than it now is on the business decisions of the transnational energy corporations Because of the inability to develop a national economic policy the country finds itself mortgaged to the IMF and World Bank. This is what Lord Action called “Selling the family’s silver to pay the Butcher’s bill.” It could not be otherwise. The interests of the neo-colonial ruling elites are closely tied to the interests of international capital and are hostile, to say the least, to the interests of working people and the poor.

8. When former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki led the drive to push through neoliberal economic reforms in South Africa, he declared that “I am more Thatcher than Thatcher.” In Trinidad and Tobago, various Ministers of Finance are taking their cues from the IMF and World Bank and saying ‘Public Private Partnership.” Because they have been co-opted by these institutions, they have become the new neo-liberal collaborators. This goes to show that after fifty-eight years of political independence, we have yet to shake off the grip of the transnational elites who are the ones upholding the imperialist doctrine of neo-colonialism.
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