14th December 2002
Morgan criticises asset stripping of public services and creeping privatisation
Short term profit is being put before long term consequences
Sinn Fein TD for Louth Arthur Morgan speaking at a party conference on Public Private Finance Initiatives in Belfast this morning said It is mystifying that the same political parties who tolerated and at times encouraged inefficient public enterprise and then used this a rationale for privatisation are now letting PPP seep into the economy with the same lack of accountability and lack of democratic control. Deputy Morgan said:
We must start by agreeing what our objectives are in developing infrastructure on this island. What do we want from our education, health and social services? What sort of road, rail, transport energy and ICT networks do we want to invest in? And the big question that needs to be asked is whether it is really possible to deliver these services for all in Ireland regardless of where you live or how wealthy you are while at the same time tolerating the providers of the service making profits from these activities.
We have witnessed over the last 40 years the centralisation of power and control of resources in state government to the detriment of local democracy. Just this week in Leinster House legislation for a so-called National Development Agency was being forced through the parliament. We all know it will lead to more PPP. We all know it has no real checks and balances and little accountability.
It is mystifying that the same political parties who tolerated and at times encouraged inefficient public enterprise and then used this a rationale for privatisation are now letting PPP seep into the 26-County economy with the same lack of accountability and lack of democratic control.
Perhaps the first step in our tackling of the PPP/PFI issue should be to call to account these failures and we can open a new front in the struggle for empowered, responsible and above all democratic local government on the island.
Second is to address the issue of how the state should co-ordinate the development of resources. I believe there is still a role for vibrant public enterprise in this society but how will we achieve that.
Take for example the issue of an all-Ireland energy structure. Do we still need the comfort blanket of a state owned everything or there other routes open to us? Could there be community run energy facilities alongside private sector power stations all co-ordinated on a state owned electricity grid?
Can we for example take a route of asking what role do we want business to play in the economy? Could we have a real partnership between the public and private sector? How can we make that never taken before step of finding a way to make the business pillar face up to their responsibilities and still be a profitable business in the long term and not an exploitative one in the short term? What political structures do we need to make that happen?
These I think are just some of the challenges open to us today. It would be easy to sit back and spend the day ripping the back out of private finance initiatives and no doubt we need to do some of that to understand clearly why it is failing and will fail again in the future. But we also have a greater responsibility ourselves to think innovatively.
This issue hits at the core of what we are about. We want real partnership between all the parts of the economy. We want real democratic structures. I know that this might seem like a long shopping list but we in Sinn Fein have arrived at a new cross roads and now we must look at the body of work ahead of us and say, now we must begin again.
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