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Before the TTIP Treaty kicks in – if it is still bullied in also over a population of 500 million Europeans who will get no democratic vote on the matter – there is an apparent agenda by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and others, to see that state department services and assets of them, are sold off, further broken up, (deliberate?) run down and outside businesses are contracted in where once there was sections that were answerable to a Dail, national/local elected and council managers, etc.
Since the start of the century for Ireland, its become more apparent that there is a quiet agenda by old political parties to further break-up state services and bit by bit, quietly, undemocratic privatise it all. Part of these more public objected to attempts was the proposed loss of part of the nations forestry, the destruction of state employment services and the bullied in private company Irish Water which legal-wise, was deliberate left also unaccountable to the state Ombudsman department.
Hospital services and local council services have gone the same route. National bus services and transport routes are being also quiet back-door privatised by sale and break-up. This continued destruction of what the state is meant to own but is giving away, has got to stop! There will be far less for future generation government to have control over, for our children to come. Private business and corporations will be too much ‘calling the shots’.
UnitedPeople is campaigning to not only stop the tide of quiet destruction but turn the flow back favourably for the people, so that they can again have greater say over the services they are being being still charged for in taxation – but that private interests are presently self-profiting.
Why A Privatisation Route?
The PR pitch made by politicians and business people alike, to the public for pursuing privatisation of public services, at first appears full of justification. The original thinking sold is that privatisation will bring more efficiency, saving the state money and hassle. That’s how those who seek to exploit, want it to appear. They claim state services can only get better through privatisation.
This line of thinking when actually stated, can be considered a slight toward anyone actually working in the state public services. Many citizens have worked personally with other state employees and found then in fact to be just as efficient or cost effective, if not more, if and when allowed!. Sadly, they are less respected in many ways, not just toward pay conditions when private profiteers are allowed more enter. Workers become treated with harsher working conditions once greater profit motives kick in. An aspect not present normally found in standard state employment.
• Privatisation is sold also as a way to avoid supposed financial risks (and costs) that the public sector would otherwise be left burdened with. This is what’s known as the “Microeconomic argument”. In trying to backup this line of thinking, what’s used additionally is PR weapons of “delivered assets on time” and “according to budget”.
Keep those factors alone in mind, the next time you hear of state contracts tendered out for the construction of a national building or service an Irish government wants to sweeten the people with (for later votes?). Have you, the reader over your lifetime so far, seen any plans of private companies overrun their once quoted financial tenders, only to be report back later, stating that their costs are higher due to extra factors they say are always justified? Does a government always then pay up? Silly question?
• Privatisation is sold also as a way to avoid political interference. Under present and previous political parties in Irish government, how has that worked out so far? Cronyism, nepotism, corruption, “jobs for the boys”, questionable too close connections to elected on an all too regular basis and with quiet self profit motives?
• Privatisation is sold with reason used, governments make poor economic managers. Hang on though, if private business screw-up a supposed state service (Irish Water?), how can they then economic manage others larger constructs? You know… Ireland!
• Previous Irish governments have only thought of farming out state services through more short term thinking. With their always eye on the next election, longer term costs or penalties upon workers or public are less viewed as an immediate concern. Knowing that workers or public issues could be less genuine confronted or fully exposed, also makes a privatisation route more attractive. Bad elected ‘kicking’ an issue further on!
• With elections in mind and a government party wishing to appear saving costs to the public, privatisation here too, allows a ‘kicking of a can (issue)’ to happen. Translated, any future price that will occur, will be lumped upon a later government to greater deal with. In the meanwhile, the previous one gets to PR state that because they have privatised a state service, they, in their own political term, have saved the state money.
This conveniently gives them also (keeping in mind an upcoming election) supposedly more state funds to play around with and pass onto the public in possible election persuasion tactics. Who honestly doesn’t think their government has not tried to buy their vote via sudden pre-election bonus ‘money in pocket’ budgets? They also announcing constructions within a particular politician’s area – a politician who also gets to announce said constructions to their local media in timely, useful fashion?
• It is PR sold to citizens that private firms are answerable to shareholders, to perform efficiently, for their eventual individual self-profit gain. This would be correct. The realisation should be therefore seen that profit – and only profit – is a core, first factor for private business existence. The pressure to fill others self-greed aims, is high. A state owned service, firm or department doesn’t have this pressure. Some say this leads to them being greater inefficient but is that down to poor management that can be improved or just weak accountability practises not also carried out? Both of those in public services, be improved if there is the genuine will. Not just try, just do!
• Privatisation is sold as supposedly a way to increase competition. In truth however, this is not always the case. It depends on the nature of the market. E.g. there is no competition in tap water. There is very little competition growth except for Ryanair, with the Aer Lingus airline industry. Same principle can apply to other areas of business.
• Selling state owned assets to the private sector will raise significant sums for Irelands government at times. Once they are sold off however, they are gone, usually never to return. Gained is a one-off benefit. It means the public lose out far longer term, on future dividends from the profits of public companies including services like transport.
- When it comes to work in state services, fixed costs can be more accurate assessed over time and found more steady. In the public services, they can be accounted for better, running costs evenly, fair distributed outward – according to a number of factors including ability to pay. When similar items are let seep into privatisation you have an obvious profit goal, orientated business. Its primary goal therefore is to seek higher set prices which exploit consumers at an inclining scale – where and when it’s possible to further hike a profit margin up even further, only to the advantage of a greedy far few.
- Many Irish departments perform an important public service, e.g. health care, education and public transport. In these, profit motive is oft times not a primary, overall objective above every other consideration. For example, in the case of Irish health care. Privatising healthcare further by front door or (currently being done) quiet back-door methods means a greater priority is given, even sad exists, to further profit aims rather than just concentrate on patient care.
In matters similar to health care and other once state services, we don’t need profit motives to improve local or national standards. When state employed doctors treat patients they are unlikely to base medical decisions around thoughts of gaining personal bonuses or trying to maintain private business margins. They are dedicated to saving lives, making better what is broken. They are far less distracted by private enterprise, profit pressures? Who would want to be on an operating stable where the person holding their body parts, could be part distracted, thinking on an operation outcome in terms of financial spreadsheets?
- The privatisation path can lead to private monopolies, such as the previous example relating to water companies – but not just to there, other sectors too. These need regulating to prevent abuse of monopoly or cartel power. This becomes increasingly harder to do in the face of a private businesses turning greater profit. This allows it to more hire professional lobbyists and legal firms, creating increased political and other imposing pressure methods. These would be used to oppose, often later halt better regulatory legislation – laws needed to be passed in order to hold more people and processes to account. The ability to pass needed government regulation and reform, unhindered, trumps privatisation power by advantages of continued state ownership.
- In other countries privatisations such as the rail sector, led to the breaking up of their rail networks into further infrastructure and train operating companies. This further led to times, greater un-clarity as to who held clear responsibilities. In a rush for profits as a primary first aim, for example, the Hatfield rail crash was blamed on no one taking responsibility for safety. Eyes and minds were looking toward other objectives! Different rail companies also have increased the complexity of priced rail tickets. I use the rail sector here as only an example. Same ‘train of thought’ can apply elsewhere.
- Phone line, mobile usage or internet services, etc. might be still a typical area where the incentive of profit possibly helps increase efficiency. However, if you apply better accountability factors to industries like health care or public transport the profit motive is less important & the public further gains in service and in pocket remaining content.
- Privatisation concentrates on the creation of wealth by various processes. It does not care primarily or often secondarily (or more) about the distribution of it by fairer means.
- When it comes again to business/company boards, there are staffed by either those with own self-profit interest or by those that earn a more fixed agreed wage within same time period. Which is then better, for the servicing of a nation when those sitting around same board are not decision influenced by their very own greater earning potential?
- Privatised services such as health, ones that carry state penalties – should they be found not to stick to their mandate, main targets or additional objectives – are inclined to more skew quarter (or yearly) reports, in more favourable terms, on how operations past or present appear on record truthfully.
Public servants could be less inclined to lie when they don’t have to stress about stating on record, financial outcomes. While services and departments still under the state eye and control, are also equally to skew reports based on their failures and inability to cope with situations, the latter can tend to be more honest with financial numbers as (a) they don’t have to be personally more accountable to greedy stockholders that could demand heads roll far quicker – and make it actually happen faster – and (b) personal financial liability is more limited upon failure becoming exposed. Truth about matters later, could be easier uncovered?
- Poor service deductions imposed by a state (upon exposure of poor performance) to a privatised venture set-up, in time could be found recuperated by being re-shared back on the public. Later end financial totals tipped slightly higher to recover earlier state deductions. There is little to stop this. In other words, fining a privatised service initially might hit the company but sooner or later that ‘hit’ will be regained through a paying public.
Where non-privatised departments or services exist and sanctions have to be similar imposed, the loss immediately might be to the department or service but in time as the ‘hit’ still has to be recuperated, the state here in time could be picking up the cost of its own imposed penalty. In other words, the state imposed a penalty with one hand but as there is then a deficit in finances due to this deduction, to maintain the same services, the state will in time could find itself coughing up again, to make up the difference?
Between the two outlined scenario’s, there is no clear winner. The only good thing is that at least, the ‘hit’ with upon public services would be shared among more people than just a smaller few with a private enterprise. Lesser of two evils.
- The path to quiet, sneaked in privatisation is not just coming openly. Sly Irish departments and political parties are bringing it in by other methods. These methods include buy-outs, subcontracting entire job descriptions such as carpentry or electrical work, plus there is sale and lease-back operations allowed.
- It’s been already stated that the opening up of public and social services is endgame, for private profit. This however, raises an additional point. Such previous department jobs and services were outside the realm of private exploitation. They have now been transformed into viable ‘goods’ for marketable private profit – at the additional expense of public service employees job conditions, including hours and zero hour contracts. Job security has become less again, secure. This in turn, across a nation, has an additional knock-on effect regarding qualifying for everything from car loan to home mortgage application attempts. What the state is doing is turning a very important social aspect into one where the loser is a state employee and their economic status.
- On its own, it has to be pointed out the re-direction of services funded by a public through general taxation, has been realigned toward the now more benefit of the private sector. To add to this, the Irish people is seeing themselves just deducted as much in taxation, charge and levy just as much as previous (if not more) while same once state services has slowly, quietly been reduced within state ownership control.• By going down the privatisation route, the public too, has become a market commodity rather than a group of people under a democratic political status – less to be cared for as they have mandated their elected to do. Their elected have without the publics direct permission sought, changed their status from an elected’s employer to a profit factor.
- The social welfare functions of the state are being changed and reintegrated not just into the national economy but a wider world economy too as they become a part of a larger investment method in the private sector. Where once the state was the final call for decisions, where government political parties ‘called the shots’, it now results that those calling the decision ‘shots’ will be more so, those on stock exchanges, those that decide market fluctuations, share prices and buy/sell positions. All for the benefit of gaining private enterprise capital, not a once outward look at primary individual care.
- The past few decades could be judged as a progressing attack on the social status of a nations working class but not just those of that societal category – even the unemployed as a now commodity, are there too for the end-game benefit of private profiteers through companies such as “Abtran” and foreign imported “Seetec”.
- The pressure is now on private companies to greater seek profit potential with each fiscal quarter, not to the benefit of a nations society but to the sheer benefit of business or company shareholders. This in turn means more corners cut for the sake of keeping the latter fed in ever greater satisfaction – if just so those around a board of directors table can keep their appointed positions and all that comes with their position seat.
- Many areas are currently under privatisation attack. Some of these are sanitation, water, transport, energy, communications, health, education, forestry, state land, financing (and leasing of capital assets), construction and even basic democratic rights as once legal state work is now farmed out. There is a clear drive to make a profit production process break away from hands of a democratic people and put it further into a tiny elite percentage. More and more power of many, is being greater handed to a fewer number to play with, for their own ends, immaterial also of profit or loss gains. The public and their lives has become chess pieces on a profit market game board.
- The more the privatisation route continues, the more those that will oppose it, will be deliberately targeted, separated and stigmatised. This not just to ease political rebuttals to them but to also categorise and taint them as troublemakers which also is an undermining threat to sought capital gain. Divide (within a public resisting) and conquer is now a considered, social profit making tactic, not just a political one. That’s how far elected have taken the privatisation path. Another lowly social status change.
- Some opposition to the current route of privatisation are aiming their ire toward corporate globalisation, a threat in part to society itself, however as we can read, some ire of objectors must be sharper, more accurate aimed towards global capitalism. There is a difference and one precedes the other. Without the latter, the former cannot foster and grow in many instances. Put simply, if a business is not making money, its ability to grow is far greater reduced in terms of social reach, financial, political and geographic location power. Rather than just hitting out at wider globalisations, more specific institutions and the problems they are causing, can be highlighted and the issues arising, could be addressed at more national – even local levels.
- If privatisation of state services is to be political halted, in no uncertain terms, those opposing privatisations MUST stop their rival part/group attacks upon each other. Keeping in mind that one party attacks another for the aim of individual gain. The true noblest of parties and political based groups MUST concentrate their ire at the real main culprits and not among themselves.
Across social forums, newspaper and broadcast media, at national and local levels within town and cities, the inner attacks must stop. Its time wasting, side-tracking of a greater issue and for the public looking on, demoralising and leaving them with an understandable attitude “Well, I’m not going to get involved in that!” Those that persist in such poor actions of causing non-unity amid opposition, is doing no state or its very people any favours – but merely doing capitalists and others supporting them, a favour, by they turning a further affected public off by their sometimes seen unruly poor behaviour. They lose momentum as a movement, their cause gains no traction, media turns against them and people lose another chance to turn a tide of an elite few.
The Too Much Ignored Factor (Deliberately?)
It has to be understood that in both the private sector and the state sector, each employee, line controller, section head, manager, director and top table chairperson, each is given a role, a task, to carry out for the well-being of others or goal of the overall state.
Up to now there has been a lot of claiming that non-privatisation leads to lesser production rates, higher occasions of work fault creation and less good management of production tools including poorer financial mismanagement. Without doubt, this happens in some situations. Truth be told however, to some degree, less or more, it also happens in the private sector too. Those selling a direction towards the road of privatisation don’t mention that of course. It would not be convenient to their PR privatisation pitch for obvious reason.
In either sector, public or private, it would make sense to hold those assigned to carry out important roles, to account for failure to compete a task they were prior assessed, able to carry out. This is needed more in the public sector – before just a taking a privatisation route.
People are generally contracted or employed to take on a task because either (a) their own CV self-advertising indicated that they were capable of such a task or (b) there is employer assessment that they were capable of doing a task that needs completion.
With that in mind, a major factor difference between the public and private sector is in terms of accountability. One would think there wouldn’t be as both sectors could employ someone toward a similar task. However, when it comes to higher level public service contracts, there consistently appears to be less or no punitive actions against those more that fail to deliver.
In the private sector, besides removal from job position, there is the possible loss of other forms of remuneration, loss of share gain potential and even pension reduction or loss. In the public sector its perceived that someone high up in position but bad at their job, can still walk away with a cushy exit package that also includes a sizeable pension for the rest of their life, exit payment and even sometimes extra perks such as the keeping of assets (car) loaned to them in their previous job position. Where then, is really an incentive to do better, or see that others under them are doing better? When such a higher state employee is in a situation of “Heads I win, tails I win” regarding job completion or failure – what have they got to really lose?
Can it be expected then that such a person is truly incentivised to operate at best capacity within their work hours? Surely their work contract just as applicable in the private sector, should also in the public sector, carry same legal weight and serious consequences for outright failure or foreseeable accidents (and more)? Matters that could have been better prevented from someone of supposed experience? Quite simply, if there was more accountability over more regular periods within the public sector, independent assessed quarterly year reports (for example) to the government being part of that ongoing assessment, a touch of pressure is always there for those to try perform their best! To those that say they cannot work under such conditions, then (a) they should not be in the position they are supposedly suitable for or (b) they are saying they couldn’t operate under similar conditions within the private sector?
There seems to be an all too convenient rush to pass over greater accountability practises within the public sector at higher levels. There is also too much use of limited reasoning – that only by privatising a service can greater production results be obtained. This is not true?
Ways And Means To An End.
Over the previous decades up to the present day, the path to privatisation has been open and covert. In the previous section was mentioned some of the ways it is still being attempted. The ways and means to which certain political parties are trying to score this agenda continues to be inventive and still sly at times. They shouldn’t be admired for their attempts in the slightest when the eventual loser of it all, could be the nation’s general public!
As in the case of HSE privatisation attempts, the creative side comes out in many ways. One example would be there hospital services themselves have met public opposition – so a then political party tries make it possible for a private service to even place itself within hospital grounds and operate from there, inside the property gates! Any attempt to do this again, must be rejected. See it for it truly is – another crafty attempt to meet privatisation TTIP treaty aims.
In Ireland there is no sectors now that are not being tried privatised. Under Fine Gael and possible others, it’s apparently open season in their attempts. Around May 9th 2016, questions were rightly asked of Fine Gael regarding their stated agenda to instigate new performance management units within hospitals. There would be private hired staff injected into the buildings themselves. Fine Gaels draft document for government espoused that this injection for the hospitals would be a “temporary transfer” of management to another provider where a hospital has shown “consistently poor patient experiences and financial management”. As many in politics knows, once a Pandoras’s Box of chance is opened, it’s hard to close again.
The PR spin from the Fine Gael government was that they were there to “assist with ring-fenced financial funding and expert advice”. Leo Varadkar, the former Fine Gael health minister, proposed the idea that underperforming hospitals could be temporarily privatised in November 2015. Another Pandora’s box again being introduced and opened by Fine Gael!
Such a radical reform to take, ends up market-based. The privatisation route taken (again) by Fine Gael elected, is bad in three ways to begin with. It exacerbates unequal in access as Ireland’s two tier health care system, is expensive as profit margins and more, are additional added on top of private wages to be paid. It’s bad for patients as finance is redirected towards even more administration costs instead of less – money for more (private) management teams, could be better spent on the hospital floors in terms of staff, equipment and maintaining of both. The Fine Gael route could see that only insurance companies and private healthcare companies first benefit from a path to privatisation, regarding profit aims – before patient care.
Additionally, healthcare privatisation does indeed create a more unequal balance in the ever continuing pursuit of higher profits, via prioritising people who can pay over those who cannot.
As light stated, things only get higher in cost in many cases. Why? What those chasing the privatisation route does not tell you in their party PR is that privatised systems need to hire more bureaucrats, lower office staff to serve them and legal advisers to revise, estimate and process all the billing and paperwork involved. The costs of all this are sometimes buried away elsewhere under different report sections that won’t openly connect them to the privatisation route taken and its subsequent costly consequences.
It should be stated (open for debate) that for-profit based hospitals are generally bad for health. Some levels of society can’t access them due to lower wages, inability to qualify even for loans for health treatments (a part USA pay method – adopted here soon, to get cared for?), etc. They tend to provide care of poorer quality and mortality rates are higher due to bureaucrats dedicating fewer resources to doctors and nurses. The bureaucrats aim overall; to cut their costs to boost profits and /or reach financial targets over the saving or bettering of actual lives of people. The result; bureaucrats makes further cuts in the services they give to the people.
As regards the Fine Gael new plan of injected (also spreadsheet watching) bureaucrats, the Irish Medical Organisation stated in their view that the idea was “ill-conceived”.
Róisín Shortall, a Social Democrat TD, also expressed her serious concerns. Speaking up as did others, she said the government did not have a mandate to pursue a “privatisation agenda by stealth”. She added;
“This revelation is hugely worrying. Underperforming hospitals are almost always the result of ineffective healthcare policy and funding at national level, so to threaten privatisation of those hospitals struggling due to bad government policy is effectively a means of manufacturing the gradual privatisation of our healthcare,”
In regard to the excuses use to try slip privatisation into the Irish health care system, the excuse of funding being overrun time and again is used. When it comes to government funding, political parties have been caught to be playing unfunny games with establishments.
Parties in government have been consistently over a number of years, been cutting funding to various institutions, then telling same to ‘live within their means’. The political parties then complain that institutions are over-spending when forced to maintain previous ran services!
Analogy: Something costs €500 a day total to operate. The government cuts that money down to €400. The institution/service then has to take money from one part of itself, to keep alive another – so they are still forced to spend €500 (some other section is down €100 and the effect of that?). After taking their money somewhat away, a political party then PR complains that the service is over-spending still – so they might even have to be punished more! Sometimes, a rare occasion when the public becomes aware of their antics, the political party throws back extra crumbs of finance. They make sure of course, to try get good PR out of their generosity – especially if there are local or general elections in the air! This is playing politics with healthcare for PR!
- A Fine Gael plan is to replace the HSE. Instead Irish healthcare will be managed by a Health Commission. Who will staff this? Who will get to select the staff of it? Will there be any friends or those favouring a particular party (or their line of thinking/agenda) be deliberate inserted too into its management structure? What protocols will be in place to clear stop any political bias? Will there be any laws to see full disclosures regarding connected political friends, connected business interests, etc, will be made clear before and after, positions are filled? Will there be a contract form incorporating failure accountability, with strong punitive measures in place? What protocols will be in place to see that medical care takes precedence over ‘bean counters’ looking at spreadsheets? All these questions and more need to be looked at. Some will be avoided by parties who wish to have hired business colleagues remain untouchable?
- Hospital groups will be forced to change to “hospital trusts” with “greater autonomy” (a “trust” being finance, indicating a priority). “Autonomy” means they can rely on the private sector to fund raise. The outer finance markets gain a greater foothold in in state healthcare operations by the back-door. “Activity-based funding” is another PR way of making sure every procedure now delivered, will have a price priority over life.
- It creates a market in which health services from surgeries to medical tests can be bought and sold. It opens the door to outsourcing and private operators, which will jump on the opportunity to enter this now further invented profit sector. A TTIP agenda.
- Hospital managers and CEOs will require an MBA (Master of Business Administration). This means their first care is from a business level, a sheer business point of view, not a medical care level. They will not be required also to hold any medical qualifications.
Simon Harris, Fine Gael TD, has stated (May 9th 2016. The Times article; Struggling hospitals ‘could be privatised’) he is seeking to run health care on the basis of consensus. He is set to give a health committee jurisdiction for plotting out the department’s health spending requirements for the next ten years at least. This means health control will have been taken more out of state hands and placed into (less accountable also in contract?) business bureaucrats? This is a seriously scary direction for the Irish healthcare system in the eyes of many, within Ireland and beyond.
Mr Harris stated;
“I expect to be held to account by the Dail, I expect to be questioned, I expect to be put under pressure, I expect to be an accountable minister for health. We need a political consensus around health, we need all of our politicians to come together.”
When a “hospital trust” with “greater autonomy” is allowed independently more takeover once state greater controlled matters, how can there still be a same state level of accountability from politicians and those on autonomous trusts? More questions to ask? Few answers?
Like many things in Irish politics, not also including subject material in this book, you will find few answers coming from Dail or even more local elected. Their silence is again, deafening.
Learn From Others?
One hospital that might already serve as an example and better aid towards Irish Healthcare, could be England’s Hinchinbrooke Hospital, based in the heart of Cambridgeshire. The rescue privatisation was supposed to be a shining light, an example of that many wanted to happen elsewhere. What came about in reality, was a different result!
In 2011 it became a ‘flagship’ state hospital to be run by a private company, Circle Health. The hospital was changed so that it could be managed privately – while the NHS buildings were still under public ownership. The process was widely criticised as (like actions in Ireland today) a sly step in the privatisation of the NHS in England.
While under the company, Circle Health, its reported that;
- In a 2013 NHS staff survey of 28 Key Findings, Hinchingbrooke came out worse than the NHS average on two thirds.
- April 2014, the hospital was likely to record a year end deficit in the region of £600,000 to £700,000 for the 2013-14 period. (“NHS trust under private management faces deficit again”. Health Service Journal. 1 April 2014.)
- July 2014, Hinchingbrooke Hospital was referred back to the UK Secretary of State for failure to meet their statutory break-even duty.
- There were accusations of bribery when it was discovered that the hospital was allegedly making offers to pay local GPs a £50 ‘administrative fee’ for surgery referrals.
- September 2014, a BBC news report lead story stated a CQC (Care Quality Commission) highlighted severe issues with patient care. Inspectors observed “staff treat patients in an undignified and emotionally abusive manner“.
- November 2014, Jenny Raine, a chief financial officer left. UNISON (union) had called for the Circle business to be ‘sacked’. UNISON claimed that papers tabled for a Board meeting in October 2014 – which did not include a financial report – showed the organisation faced potential penalties of up to £200,000 per month. Why? For failure to meet targets for patients waiting longer than four hours in the accident and emergency department. More penalties were possible for failing to reach electronic discharge summary targets. The penalties for that already stood then at £138,000 and a further £150,000 for failing to increase the number of patients discharged at weekends. UNISON said staff turnover was shockingly more than 13 per cent.
- January 2015, Circle announced Hinchingbrooke Hospital was “no longer [financially] viable under current terms”. It wanted out under exit terms of the 10-year contract. They were not only failing to rake in the profits they dreamed they could make, the privatisation route put the hospital & people in it, in further in to massive jeopardy.
NOTE: Circle set up by a former Goldman Sach’s banker and at that stage was 95% owned by hedge fund investors and other bankers (see HERE). Circle bankers decided to put a CEO in charge of Hinchingbrooke whose previous job had been as “supply chain director” at Argos (see HERE)
CQC watchdog’s lead inspector, Dr Jonathan Fielden, had previously warned of the dangers of privatisation. Like professionals back home in Ireland, who stated cautions to politicians about matters effecting people and finances, his warnings equally were ignored but was also proven to be all too accurate. In the UK, his warnings fell also on deliberate deaf elected ears.
In the UK, the public would pay the price for politician’s deafness – and patients in the hospital itself, were left to further suffer.
Alike other privatisations now being PR pushed in Ireland, the Hinchingbrooke Hospital privatisation was sold on the same line of “Better management, better for the people, better for the state, more efficiency, more effective and greater saving for the state to be made”.
The elected privatisation advocates then were and still are in Ireland, willing to overlook two massive important points that also broke the UK attempt at privatisation.
- Private hospitals function in theory, better where pre-planned operations and consultant led clinics take place at the financial expense of the patient.
- Any hospital in order to ensure true treatment fairness regardless of how much money a patient has in their pocket, has to function where patients are unpredictable, and difficult or unprofitable cases cannot be ignored or sent elsewhere. This includes an integral part of acute, emergency, and 24-hour care of a general population. The state has many factors that are very unpredictable and cannot be greater accurate forecast on an accountant’s spreadsheet in terms of years, months or even weeks sometimes.
The Circle business and the Hinchingbrooke Hospital privatisation attempt had been PR sold previously as an example of a private company stepping in to triumph where the state had failed. Within a year, the cracks began to more appear. It became a monumental failure; the privatisation experiment unravelled before patients, their family, politicians and a state’s eyes.
There is of course those that can say “That was the UK” – “Things can be different in Ireland” and they can say so with good justification. A reply might be to that through, could be twofold.
- There are lessons that can still be learned from the mistakes of others, regardless of the state they were made in and
- The two previous stated important points and the conditions surrounding them is very unlikely to change. No private business can long term survive when the market forces for it are living per day to day on such public unpredictability?
Fine Gael and others chasing the privatisation agenda dream, openly and quietly, are possible still willing to overlook such points they don’t like to hear or read about! Time will tell…
Water, Charging For Use & Privatise It.
Right now in the Republic of Ireland there is fewer matters that are constantly talked about than the substance of the nation’s water and the additional services needed to get it to citizens. Some politicians are either so tired of the matter or don’t wish to be seen on the wrong side of the matter argument, that they are deliberate deaf and blind at times to questions on the subject, asked by citizens and journalists or they just don’t have a clue – but don’t wish their lack of education on the matter, to be exposed. Either way, they try keep their heads down, duck and dive the issue where possible and most certainly not raise it unless they are sure they are on a winning (vote) side of things!
More is said about Irish Water elsewhere in this manuscript. Avoiding repetition, it’s just best to say that many see the antics of those in government as still trying to continue the back-door privatisation agenda of Irelands own water services. TV3 broadcaster and journalist Vincent Browne repeatedly confronted ministers on this issue and repeatedly they ducked the matter. They continued to duck truthful accurate answers with instead, longwinded PR statements of distraction, poor denials, empty vague intents and little accountability possibilities.
Again, here too, it must be pointed out that Ireland’s water and attached water services should be more guaranteed within the constitution of Ireland – not as some would disaster have, make an actual company state constituted. The latter process would only see that Irish Water would be harder to remove, if for many reasons the public didn’t want it – which many already don’t!
Water Privatisation – A Background History.
The privatisation of water services in Ireland has been a long time coming in. Beyond the web registering of items like irishwater.ie & related domain names, the history of water privatisation shows just how long certain planners are willing to wait behind their closed doors with their secret meetings and agendas. What follows is a basic history of water service privatisation – but it serves also to show how such things are being done and how long they can be planned!
Catalyst: By the 1980’s a majority of the worlds water supply and sanitation services were still technically in public ownership. French private owned companies were at the time part leading the charge into Europe and further, to grab water services for the sake of profit over servicing a public for common good. Their reach extended to include, if they could help it, public construction works, waste management energy and heating services. No other countries had been reached out to more than by the French companies at the time – until the privatisation of water services in England and Wales in 1989.
There was a number of important political factors that drove the further privatisation agenda onward. The notion again (via England) that the privatisation of water services could give possible businesses further areas for expansion and potential greater profits spurred on even the likes of the World Bank and others. The World Bank itself PR sold this notion by espousing that such a direction would help to promote water systems in developing countries along with efficiency improvements and better control of operations. At an international conference in year 2000, the World Bank stated that “there is no alternative to privatisation”.
From the late 1980’s to 2003, the world share of private water operations grew at an increased pace. French multinationals again having the most luck. In 2002 companies ran into stronger political opposition and with some companies, failure to make good enough economic returns.
The main successful French companies were known as Suez (their water division was called Ondeo – originally known as Lyonnaise des Eaux) and Veoila (previous part of Vivendi – originally known as Generale des Eaux). They shared over 60% of 320 million approximate customers now serviced by water privatisation businesses. A third company called SAUR chased the previous two both in Europe and in Africa where it expanded to.
English and Welsh companies later attempted to expand internationally. These included Anglician, Hyder, Severt Trent, Thames, United Utilities and Yorkshire. Come 2006 however they have just about reversed their expansion given more difficulties than they had planned for or could resolve. Two energy multinationals also attempted to enter water services privatisation, USA Enron and German Energy group RWE. It was noted at the time that any progress came via making more inroads into further public services rather than private companies actually competing against each other. In order to survive, a number had to combine forces and create joint ventures. Newer private businesses also had to overcome the fact that pre-existing companies already established in water services privatisation, had to their greater benefit, contractual concessions obtained from governments what were 25 to 30 years in length. How could one serious try compete with that?
Where there was any growth, it was characterised by close relationships with development banks (including the World Bank and its agenda), politicians and inroads into level of possible political corruption as quiet relationships were facilitated out of each side wishing to gain!
On The (Water) Rocks.
Generally, from 2002 onward, many multinationals have run into serious difficulty. They have abandoned many attempts to enter the water services privatisation sector. The trend is apparently worldwide. Even developing countries are witnessing private businesses withdrawals from a market sector they initially thought was workable. From afar it looked a good prospect in many cases – but on the ground and in the area, dealing with many cross-over factors including lack of government stability, bribing greedy and more, reality was more far different in result than what projected spreadsheets could hypothetically predict in success!
The reasons for businesses withdrawing from trying to progress into water service privatisation, are multiple and complex. In short however there was three main ones:
- The multinationals failed repeatedly to create an acceptable return for their stockholders a financial return that could be deeded a genuine success. Currency devaluations, economic crises, unrealistic financial projections, public resistance to prices rises and the serious problem of having to invest money into poorer households that were repeatedly unable to serious contribute to the cost of water services supplied by the companies, all heaped to create a market sector that increasingly looking untenable in the long term. As one manager of UK water company Biwater, 1999, stated in regard to overseas operations: “Investors need to be convinced that they will get reasonable returns. The issues we consider include who the end users are and whether they are able to afford the water tariffs. From a social point of view. These kinds of projects are viable but unfortunately from a private sector point of view they are not.”
(Zimbabwe Independent 10/121999)
- The level of political and public opposition to water services being privatised had been unexpected in regards how strong and effective that opposition would be and at what speed! Like Ireland, when a great deal of the nation’s people rose over “Irish Water” and a clear state agenda to back-door see private company’s try money grab for own greater gain, other nations politicians and people, did same. The companies of course expected some opposition – but by and far, they didn’t expect nor plan to cope, with a quantity that did rise up!A natural common reason for the very strong opposition across Europe and further, was the same as many reason Ireland people took to the streets of many a town across the country and to the nation’s capital, Dublin.
There was an underlying belief that water supplies and their connected services were an absolute essential national & local service. They should remain in the public domain, under clear state control, not through some (deliberate?) fudged entity, not to be used front-door or backdoor for the gain of private individual or private companies to exploit and personally profit from, at the cost to family, friends and nation! The very notion that companies could monopolise public utilities, incredulously facilitated by political parties who have been known to take questionable money from connected business individuals, didn’t help any degree of hoped success in Ireland alone!
The exploitation of such a vital resource was frankly, too much for many a nations people to swallow!Opposition has come from any directions, aimed at multinationals and connected individuals. Consumer groups, elected politicians at local and national level, trade unions, citizen’s groups already in existence or one’s quickly formed, environmentalists and more, have when more focused, been able to defy expectation. They created forces to be reckoned with – much to the shock of those out to endgame, unfair exploit for financial gain, for the elite.
Opposition rose up at times not only due to suspected corruption occurring via politicians and officials, being either bullied (through lobby groups or individuals) or they receiving ‘benefits’ immediately (or promised some later when the coast was quieter and clearer to gain), but also that corruption was involved in the obtaining of contracts via inducements, political party donations and more. The state policy making process itself, was thought to have been taken quiet advantage of. Known thought culprits to still escaping arrest. Why?Good question?
- The two previous reasons were also exacerbated by the third factor that has been partly mentioned. The failure of the private sector to live up to expectations, centred around investments made, acted also as an end-failure catalyst. This too came about due to many reasons. The collapse of national economies, resulted in previous given concessions being then further unsustainable. Companies found it harder to guarantee profits to shareholders. Public sector operations in some cases (as in Atlanta, USA) actually were able to show they would be of greater value over the multinationals, when run right!
For one reason or indeed, many, the privatisation of water, its public availability and services utilised to being it that far, has met many a rocky road. A road oft times unexpected. ‘Road blocks’ as such, from financial to public created, have exposed that a privatisation route is not indeed the best result for many. Many nations elected and their very citizens have kopped onto this fact and more so, have shown that they are not going to just lie down and take it!
Across the world, a reversal water tide of privatisations has occurred. Public authorities have retaken, re-purchased ownership of related services. Multinationals have much retreated. In some countries workers and unions have a formal ownership stake in the owning of services. Municipally owned operations have more emerged through more public partnerships.
The days of being easy able to just jump in, greed-grab a basic vital resource, is much over!
If Irish political parties and their too much connected, private business investors, think that after so many years, it would be ok to sly try a takeover of Irelands water and its connected services – a same privatisation stunt on the nation of people that has been tried before elsewhere – they have already found out from 2014 to 2016, such a plan is not now likely to go as they had quietly hoped! A sly process, closed door, tried planed for, against the public?
All the more reason for better accountable elected and a better system to quicker to hold the rotten within, to better account? A growing number think so. The better elected have less to fear when they mandate continue to work in the general good of their local and national people.
If the corrupt, the devious, the non-mandated & the greedy business heads thought their plans would be a walk in the park, they found out – and could find again that the citizens of a nation might end up doing their own walking, in protest again, if need be. Elected – take sharp notice!
A Lotto Good Is Privatisation?
Even Ireland’s national lottery has come under political fire for the privatisation of it. Increased costs of a ticket and a “litany of problems” faced by the set-up over several months was blamed as a result of its privatisation by the Government. Opposition party Fianna Fáil via spokesman on Public Expenditure, Seán Fleming took oral aim at it.
The €405 million sale of the National Lottery to Premier Lotteries Ireland were contract signed in February 2014. This placed it in private hands for the first time in its history.
Soon after, the cost of playing the lotto went up. The private company also then lowers the odds of people winning – making it more drawn out to win – thus increasing attempting at profits – by adding two more extra balls into the game. The lotto machines even broke down.
“The main concern is that it will be the same number of people paying more. Really they should be trying to get more people to play rather than extracting more money out of the same few” said Mr Fleming
Premier Lotteries Ireland did insist that changes would improve odds of winning a prize from one in 42 to one in 28, but Mr Fleming pointed out that prizes would not be increased “at the top end”. Just the smaller minor money might be better picked up by a lucky few.
Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim, Michael Fitzmaurice, went on record stating that the price increase for tickets was:
“a clear indication of what can happen when State assets are sold off”.
It was only a further indication of things past and present – and the future if the rot continues?
Perhaps journalist Gene Kerrigan said it best in an article (“Enda is ruthlessly good at some things”) he penned on the 18th of October, 2015 for the Independent. Amid other words stated was:
“They (Ireland governments of FF or FG, etc) protected the freedom of the market – which means the freedom of the bankers, the freedom of the big landlords, the tax avoidance of the mega-corporations. At the United Nations, as some countries sought to protect their citizens, the Irish Government voted to protect vulture fund capitalists.
They protected the two-tier health system and the class-ridden education system. They protected the use of the housing market as a casino for wealthy gamblers. And they sought to create a private company that would act as a conduit for selling our water supplies to the highest bidder.
They reduced our share of income and thrashed our pensions. They ruined countless lives by cutting services that helped the low paid and the periodically unemployed hold their lives together.”
Soon thereafter followed up by:
“The Opposition is ineffective. They taunt the Government, but they cannot challenge it – Fine Gael and Labour, after all, are merely implementing the Fianna Fail strategy, with more cunning than Fianna Fail ever managed.”
Between the jigs and the reels of Irish politics and Irish society, there is quiet attempts by political parties and those vested, to try make personal gains, to privatise a lot of areas. When all the state assets are gone – they are ultimately gone, most likely never to return unless there is a major troublesome revolution or the citizens by peaceful process take them back.
The likelihood of the former happening is doubtful and the latter will be tried to be stopped by those that are, again, up to no good. They will write the legislation, the acts to give them a legal right to overrule a nations people. It should be always remembered though – just because something is legally right, it doesn’t also make it morally right. A big difference?
Giving too much away which belongs to the state, thus to the people of that state, is not a good thing in the short run and in the long run. That statement however won’t stop the corrupt – so people themselves at close of day, must again look to themselves to stop the rot! If they do, they not only serve/help themselves, they enhance a better future for generations to come!