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Social Watch Annual Report 2003
The poor and the market

Download the complete "Social Watch Report 2003" in one big file (3291 kb) or by chapter.

The Robin Hood economy. The net transfer of financial resources to developing countries has been negative each and every year since 1997, according to what Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, reported to the General Assembly in 2002. In other words, money is being taken from the poor to give to the rich. The world economy is functioning like a reverse Robin Hood.
From social contract to private contracts: The privatisation of health, education and basic infrastructure. A review of the 2003 Social Watch country reports
Privatisation is being pushed by international governance institutions, the governments that control them, and the corporations that lobby both groups, even though the dangers that privatisation entails can seriously—and permanently—harm the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people. The position of «privatise first and ask questions later» and the naïve confidence in the processes and outcomes of market reform have imposed hardship on precisely the groups those organisations are entrusted to protect. It is time to shift the burden of proof from those who question risky solutions to those who propose them.
Public services at risk: GATS and the privatisation agenda
WTO negotiations on General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) are threatening essential public services—including water—throughout the world. In the current negotiations, which were launched in November 2001, governments are pressuring each other to open up services to private sector and non-profit (NGO) providers, even in socially sensitive areas such as water, health and education. The GATS could undermine progress toward social and environmental goals because it limits the ability of governments to regulate or provide services. For instance, it could jeopardize access to water and other services by poor and vulnerable groups.
Privatising human rights – the impact of globalisation on adequate housing, water and sanitation
While the debate continues at the international level on whether or not globalisation can bring benefits to the world’s poor, the fact remains that the deepening inequalities of income and opportunity between and within nations has led to an increase in the number of people without adequate and secure housing. The human rights of people and communities to housing, water and sanitation—guaranteed under international law and commitments of development targets made at global summits including the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development—continue to erode as the process of privatisation deepens and accelerates. It is time to rethink the current global economic and social policies and to recommit ourselves to the human rights principles and standards that offer the only real paradigm for improving the lives of millions of the poor.
The marketisation of social reproduction in the new services-led economy
Policies are implemented within an institutional setting that dictates the distribution of costs and benefits. Among the challenges that we face today is the need to create a set of policy and legal instruments that will reconstruct the gender-biased institutional setting within which globalisation currently operates. The markets have generated a structure of incentives that encourages women to undertake productive activities. But we know of hardly any incentives to encourage men to take over caring responsibilities. The result is that social reproduction is being moved out of the households and into the privatised market sphere in what appears to be a move out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Forging a Global Partnership for Development: Some Critical Issues
Goal Eight of the Millennium Development Goals does not have detailed enough targets to define the objectives and actions that are needed in the area of global finance, including the problems of debt, capital flows and a healthy system of financing for development. The emerging paradigm calls for developing countries to take a pragmatic approach to globalisation and liberalisation and to integrating their domestic economies with the global economy in the areas of finance, trade and investment. However, the financial system as a whole—increasingly characterised by the absence of regulations, transparency or a fair set of rules for resolving the conflicts between debtor and creditor countries—requires an overhaul
Europe for business or Europe for its people? The European Union and the GATS
The European Union (EU) prides itself on its social democracy, the core common value that connects the people and member states. Yet the GATS negotiations challenge this very foundation of the EU, as they further weaken the ability of EU member states to decide social policy, even in key areas such as health, education, water and sanitation. The GATS negotiations give unprecedented access to business, at the expense of democratic control and decision-making by elected representatives. The GATS threatens the very fabric of the EU, both in its social dimension and its democratic character. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is an increasing pressure from social movements, including trade unions, to stop the current negotiations.
Globalisation and trade: challenges of the Arab World
Dramatic international developments point to a trend of «the militarization of globalisation,» which can be considered a radical outcome of the failure of globalisation and traditional economic policies to secure social and economic equity. These developments are also indicative of a strong desire to strengthen direct control over the world’s cultural, economic and intellectual resources by neoliberal hegemonic powers.
Measuring progress:
Some comments on country-to-country poverty comparisons
Due to the highly controversial nature of poverty studies, some of the problems arising when establishing international measures are the same as those that are faced when countries establish national poverty lines. The World Bank has advocated making these comparisons according to consumption or income, and in particular, has established a threshold of one dollar per day per person, based on 1985 purchasing power parity. Although it might be useful to resort to income based measures, these on their own are insufficient, as concepts of poverty are becoming more complex and multidimensional. There is now a wide consensus regarding the fact that access to health and education is just as important as income and that in the future, the consensus will probably include empowerment and participation in citizen life.
Assessment of the advances up to 2000
About the methodology
Information poverty
Statistics showing country by country progress toward social development goals (zip)
Progress or regressions in the fulfilment of the Copenhagen goals
Gender gap evolution
Changes in public expenditure
Trends of the official development assistance
Table of signatures and ratifications of international treaties mentioned in the Millennium Declaration
Table of signatures and ratifications of key international agreements
Table of Ratifications of Fundamental ILO Conventions
Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals
Country reports:
The struggle over water.  The plan to privatise the urban water supply system by March 2003 has become a defining battlefield. For the poor, the commercialisation of water, combined with lack of investment in the sector and regressive socio-economic distribution, is a key factor in their povertystriken situation. At the heart of the issue are questions of need versus profit, and whether water is a right or a commodity. GYEKYE TANOH- KATHY CUSACK.
The stark realities of an ideological orthodoxy. Kenya has embarked on privatisation without any discernible ideological reservations. Far from achieving the goal of good governance, privatisation so far has widened the gender gap, made water more expensive than oil and turned patients away from hospitals untreated. In fact, privatisation has spread economic risks throughout society while channelling economic gains to the few. KENYAN SOCIAL WATCH COALITION
On the way to deepening social inequalities. The privatisation policy is only one aspect of the Structural Adjustment Plan. Initially considered as a means to submit public companies to more rigorous management rules, today it is no more than an instrument to achieve the objective of budgetary balance and to have exceptional income to reduce the foreign debt and recover the confidence of capitalist partners. Health and education are undergoing an underhand process of liberalisation that will worsen social inequality rather than help provide access to services or ensure their efficiency. LUCILE DAUMAS ABDELLAZIZ MESSAOUDI ABDELLATIF ASSINI ABDELKHALEK BENZEKRI MOHAMED HAKECH SAAD BELGHAZI (RESEARCHER)
Less State, fewer benefits. While applying structural adjustment programmes in the mid-1990s the government designed and implemented a sweeping plan for the privatisation of public companies. Since 1989, 27 public companies have effectively passed into private hands. The result has been the deterioration of the education system and the public health service, the degradation of food production and security, increased unemployment and the growth of exclusion and inequalities. ABDOUL SOULEYE SOW
The widening gap between rich and poor. The democratic gains of South Africa’s 1994 transition rapidly came under pressure as the new leaders adopted neo-liberal policies in the face of demands of the poor majority for rapid socio-economic transformation. At the time,«12 million South Africans did not have access to clean drinking water, 21 million did not have access to adequate sanitation … and more than 20 million had no access to electricity,»  while 87% of the land was in the hands of about 60,000 white farmers. ANDILE MNGXITAMA ANN EVELETH
The damage of declining public investment on services. Liberalisation and privatisation policies, and the new terms of international trade, have had negative impact on the national economy and the socio-economic status of the population. The decline in public investment in services has reflected negatively on human development, as indicated by the decline in calorie intake and the increase of the population under the poverty line. It was also reflected in the almost total failure to realise any of the government’s targets in the fields of health, education, drinking water or sanitation. DR. HASSAN ABDEL ATI DR. GALAL EL DIN EL TAYEB
Benefit of an elite at the expense of the poor majority. While some businessmen and investors cite GDP growth and higher efficiency as positive results of liberalisation, civil society finds that economic reform measures have reduced government services in communities, increased individual costs for social services, and caused job losses. The results have been regressive, as a small minority have benefited while the majority have become further impoverished and disenfranchised.
Democratic deficits in the midst of liberalisation. In 1987, following a crisis in the balance of payments, Tunisia entered a structural adjustment programme, aimed at liberalising the economy and cutting the State’s role in competitive economic sectors. From 1997 onwards, the government accelerated the process and started selling companies that were not losing money. Civil society has been unable to exert pressure on the government to prevent decisions being made contrary to the interests of the majority. SALAHEDDIN EL JORSHI
Privatisation versus the poor. Although in some areas such as telecommunications and electricity, the liberalisation has improved quality, in others, the improvement is hardly cosmetic. While most of the poor and rural population do not have access to basic services, for women in particular privatisation has increased their work load. So that those excluded receive better basic services it is necessary to develop policy and regulatory mechanisms that reinvest the resources generated by privatisation in the social infrastructure. DAVID OBOT
Poverty in the midst of the market: the Zambian scenario. At present, 73% of the population live in poverty. Of these, close to 59% are extremely poor, with the majority being women and children. In addition to income deficiency, the poor lack access to adequate food, health and educational facilities, safe water, clothing and shelter. The PRSP is a weak response to poverty’s alarming proportions, while agriculture liberalisation has not benefited domestic farmers, due to high tariff walls and heavy subsidies in Western markets. MICHELO HANSUNGULE
Scarce transparency in services policies. It is expected that Bahrain, with increasing poverty and unemployment, will soon be the first Gulf Cooperation Council state to legislate privatisation. After beginning in a few sectors, such as transportation and sanitation, privatisation is expected to gain momentum and be extended to the ports and electricity production.
Corruption and mismanagement threaten jute mills. The jute sector was dominant in the economy in terms of manufacturing sector output, employment, and foreign exchange earnings. It contributed 87% of total merchandise export earnings at the time of the country’s independence. The change of government in 1975 paved the way for a change in the nationalisation policy and a process of privatisation was initiated. This report discusses the impact of the nationalisation and later privatisation of the jute mills on the national economy and on the jute workers. ATIUR RAHMAN ISMAIL HOSSAIN
The long road to poverty eradication. Despite official policy pronouncements and some genuine efforts to reform the health and education sectors, structural obstacles, most particularly low budgetary allocations and disbursement systems that are slow and not always transparent, block progress and have a debilitating effect on the quality and delivery of services. The deep structural macro-economic problems worsen year after year and paralyse the whole public health sector. Access to key natural resources are auctioned off to be commercialised, leading to further impoverishment of the population. THIDA C. KHUS
Erosion of rights and marketisation of development. The national development paradigm is a paradox. On the one hand, there is a professed commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals by respecting, protecting and fulfilling economic, social and cultural rights. On the other hand, there is clear policy prioritisation towards privatisation of services that affect the basic rights of the most marginalised, such as education, health, water and food distribution. In contrast with the «the language of rights», policy prescriptions push basic services away from the responsibilities and obligations of the State. JOHN SAMUEL BOBBY KUNHU
The money into the pockets of foreign companies. The political instability in the region, along with Jordan’s maturing economy, has prevented the domestic private sector from playing an integral role in privatisation and has opened the way for foreign investors to take over many previously public enterprises. As a result, profits made from privatised companies do not contribute to the Jordanian treasury, as structural adjustment continues to challenge welfare policies. Reduced public spending combined with low growth will increase poverty, which is already aggravated by high population growth. NATASHA SHAWARIB
To the detriment of women, children and the poor. The policy of structural adjustments has led to a sharp reduction of social expenditures and the collapse of the social services sector. Privatisation of social sector entities has failed. Firms offered for sale were not in good condition or in great demand, so investors did not bid on them. In addition, privatisation of health and education has reduced accessibility, and had a negative impact on the poor and on women and children in particular. SVETLANA SHAKIROVA MARA SEITOVA
Privatisation, conflict and discontent. Privatisation in Korea has aroused intense debate and inspired many citizen mobilisations. While voices from the government insist that privatisation will strengthen industrial competitiveness and resolve the ill-effects of monopolies, labour unions, civil society and academia cry out that it will drain national wealth through sales abroad, degrade public services and deepen social inequality. Since there is no precedent of a successful privatisation and restructuring process being carried out without social consensus, the government should try to take the advice of civic groups rather than follow its present course. PROF. KIM JIN SOO
Confronting the fiscal crisis through privatisation. The main reason for privatisation is fiscal. Government officials argue that it is the only way out of the debt trap. However, private firms only invest where they expect to make a profit. The private sector, by its nature, prioritises short-term profit over any other social benefit. All in all, the «public good» value of basic services is considered less important than their fiscal potential. ZEINA ABLA
The high cost of private monopolies. Privatisation policies have been limited to a small elite who took over profitable public utilities and turned them into private monopolies. On several occasions, the objective of reduced fiscal burden backfired, as the government had to pay higher costs to bail out failed privatisations. For consumers, price increases have not brought about benefits. There is a serious need to review the entire privatisation policies to make the process more accountable and transparent. MAGESWARI SANGARALINGAM MEENAKSHI RAMAN
Rockbottom economic status. Economic liberalisation began in 1992. The foreign investment policy endevoured to attract foreign private investment but undermined the national interest. Nepalese entrepreneurs with limited resources and technical capacity were unable to compete with foreign private investors and hence were negatively affected. Privatisation of education and health has created two distinct classes and has benefited the higher income groups, in a country where approximately 42% of the population live below the poverty line. SARBA RAJ KHADKA RAKHEE LOHANI
Extreme poverty, forced labour, «honour killings»… This report presents an overview of the dramatic Pakistani situation. Its 140 million people are among the world’s poorest. High population growth and low social spending have deteriorated healthcare, education, sanitation and drinking water. Non-Muslim minorities experience routine discrimination. Child and forced labour and violence against women, subject to the rule of «honour killings», are part of a general climate of restricted public freedoms. PROF. AIJAZ A. QURESHI MUSHTAQ MIRANI NASARULLAH THAHEEM SHAHEEN KHAN
Relying on others: provision of water and health care. Palestinian dependence on Israel for water and on the international community for healthcare services underscores the crippled state of Palestinian welfare and its subjugation to Israeli military decisions. This is not the result of shortcomings of the traditional development approaches (in particular the differing incentive and sanction structures behind state and market approaches to basic service provision1 ) but of Israeli military and government policy towards the West Bank and Gaza. IZZAT ABDUL-HADI THOMAS WHITE
The water case: increased rates for poorer services. In August 1997, the government-run facility that provided safe drinking water to 11 million Metro Manila residents, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Services (MWSS), was privatised. The MWSS story belies the claim that privatisation automatically provides additional funds to government or improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the management of companies. What it bolsters, however, is the concern that cost-recovery and profit-making are the primary goals of privatisation—even at huge economic and social costs to consumers and citizens. MA. VICTORIA R. RAQUIZA
The dark side of global markets. The 1997 economic crisis led to the privatisation of lucrative state enterprises as an IMF requirement to reduce the debt, which was largely incurred by the private sector. However, the multinational corporations have not benefited Thailand, but they have returned profits to their own countries. At present, it is vital to define, prioritise and achieve an equilibrium between democratic development and market mechanisms. In this process, civil society should play an active role in maintaining basic human values. RANEE HASSARUNGSEE
The Doi Moi policy and its impact on the poor. In December 1986, the government mandated the Doi Moi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one. The current trend shows growing inequality between the rural and urban population, and between the rich and the poor. Privatisation and liberalisation increased the social gap in the access to basic social services in general and to education and health in particular, and increased the vulnerability of the rural poor. TRAN THI QUE TO XUAN PHUC
Latin America:
In the hands of the oligopoly of foreign capital. During the 1990s, economic policies were characterised by a strengthening of the neo-liberal model, promoted by multilateral credit institutions. Thus the public and financial services, following a process of privatisations, were monopolised by an oligarchy of private companies with foreign capital. Devaluation was mainly due to the «Convertibility Law», which was supported until the bitter end by the IMF and the «financial community». The massive capital flight during 2001 sealed Argentina’s fate.
Water and privatisation: doubtful benefits, concrete threats. The Bolivian experience of privatisation of the companies that manage and distribute water is a good window on the conflicts triggered by the privatisation of basic services. It also shows the enormous difficulty – some say the impossibility – of making the search for profit compatible with an equitable and sustainable supply of basic services; that is, making privatisation benefit the poor. TOM KRUSE - CECILIA RAMOS
The implicit agenda of a conservative patrimonial reform. 1 Although it was argued that the proceeds from privatisation would be invested in social reforms, from 1995 it became clear that those revenues generated an important inflow of international capital, to be used not for social investment, but rather to finance trade deficits and debt service. The economic results of privatisation were mixed, while in social terms they have been a failure. LUIZ CARLOS DELORME PRADO - LEONARDO WELLER
The brutal rationale of privatisation. «Beyond euphemisms, privatisation of health, social security and education operated by neo-liberals has imposed a brutal rationale: depending on the amount of money you have, you will have so much health care, quality of education for your children and pension upon retirement. If you are privileged, you will have access to privileged services. If you are poor, you will have to make do with what the public system is able to give you.» ANA MARÍA ARTEAGA
The violation of social rights within market rationale. Privatisation of social services is being imposed by the international funding institutions through severe and never-ending structural adjustment programmes. In these programmes pressure is put on the government to change social policies to make social services profitable; thus health, education, social security and access to water, energy, telecommunications and environmental sanitation services can be operated by private agents, guaranteeing them high profit margins. ALBERTO YEPES P.
Selling our grandparents’ inheritance. Within the context of the economic crisis, the rapid loss of mechanisms of social mobility and economic, political and cultural break down, a real and symbolic rupture is occurring, under progressive and unorthodox procedures, in various fields of the State’s monopolistic of the provision of services, such as electricity, health care and education. Attempts at privatising a public institution or a complete sector have faced strong opposition among the people. ANA FELICIA TORRES REDONDO - CARLOS PENTZKE PIERSON
Adjustments, debt and privatisations: what will become of our rights?. The sale of state companies required by the IMF, the scaling down of the State through mass dismissal of workers, reduction in government spending, the elimination of subsidies to basic services and fuel, cutbacks in wages and salaries, the protection of international creditors through FEIREP and the intensification of the extractive model of overexploiting resources—these are characteristics of the public policy implemented by the national government, following the guidelines of international bodies. SUSANA CHU YEP - JORGE ACOSTA ARIAS - PATRICIO PAZMIÑO FREIRE
Privatisation: a process with cracks. The privatisation discourse promised to reduce the size of the State, reduce the deficit, provide better services and supply the State with immediate resources, which would be used to cancel the short-term debt and be invested in infrastructure or social expenditure. However, even the private sector has recognised that there has been a lack of transparency in decision making. In fact, the implementation of privatisation has involved many sacrifices, including privatisation of banking and de-nationalisation of the public assets. JEANNETTE ALVARADO - ROSARLIN HERNÁNDEZ - GLORIA GUZMÁN - MARIO ANTONIO PANIAGUA
The invisible price women have to pay for privatisation. Within the framework of the free trade treaties progress is being made in the process of public service privatisation in Honduras. The disappearance of State responsibility for maintaining public services has led to women having to double or treble their workday to take on a greater workload at home, with more hours of voluntary work in the communities and in activities generating income, to the detriment of their health, quality of life and leisure. ANA MARÍA FERRERA - SUYAPA MARTÍNEZ - FILADELFO MARTÍNEZ - MIRTA KENNEDY - MARÍA ELENA MÉNDEZ
Now the responsibility lies with the individuals. Stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes adopted following the foreign debt crisis in 1982 have included the total or partial privatisation of many state companies and activities in various sectors: industrial, financial, agriculture and stock-raising, mining, infrastructure, communications, petro-chemical and even social security. Along with cutbacks in social expenditure associated with trends to privatise public and basic services, the «novelty» lies with the transfer of State responsibility to private companies. ARELI SANDOVAL TERÁN
A nation in the dark. Privatisation has not resulted in any social benefit for the poorest people. The energy and telephone companies have not only raised the already «dollarised» price of services, but also increased requirements for access to these services and decreased quality. In addition to being a country of poor people, today Nicaragua is also a nation in the dark. RUTH SELMA HERRERA M
The neo-liberal State: debt, inequality and poverty. The faithful compliance with the economic recipes imposed by international financial bodies has been carried out through the transformation of the State’s role. The result has been more expensive services, weakened agricultural, livestock and industrial productive sectors, the deterioration of living conditions, a widening inequality gap and the acceleration of the debt spiral. CARLOS MARCELO CASTILLO
Social mobilisation against privatisation. Privatisation in the 1990s was marked by state de-capitalisation, the absence of benefits for the people, high rates and insufficient coverage. In the year 2000 the promotion of privatising was reactivated through promulgation of the Law for Privatisation of State Companies. The attempt at privatising telecommunications within this legal framework was carried out in a context of swindles and corruption. Social mobilisation managed to have the law repealed, but it is feared that the privatising agenda will be taken up once again. JUAN CARLOS YUSTE - DIEGO BROM
The people halt privatisation. The privatisation of electric energy services guaranteed the buyers that they would obtain large profits on their operation at the expense of the State and consumers. The State delivered captive consumer markets and converted a public monopoly into private ones. This process has nothing to do with a market economy, but rather with profitable commercialism, which the present government has maintained under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and other financial bodies. HÉCTOR BÉJAR
Shape up or ship out!. Surinamese society is moving towards privatisation and liberalisation among heated debates. Bad quality and high costs of public services make consumers demand the government to either shape up or ship out and give private initiative the chance to do it better. On the other hand, there is fear for the consequences to employment and the accessibility of quality services for the poor, and benefits from concessions to multinationals are questionable. MAGGIE SCHMEITZ
The reform of the social sector: statism, inequality and privatisation by default. The Uruguayan case shows the benefits of state perseverance and public assets and the adverse effects of privatisation by default. Although an attempt has been made to attribute the crisis to this statist emphasis, the present collapse of the economy and its social effects are basically the result of a financial system that lacks adequate monitoring, a marked deterioration of industry, a foreign exchange rate that damages the country’s competitiveness, and the vision of a country regarded as a financial and service market. FERNANDO FILGUEIRA
The social programme of the Bolivarian Republic. Going against the current of predominant trends, the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution consecrates rights of citizens to health and medical care, as well as other social rights, while increasing state responsibility. In the context of social development, the new Republic promotes enhancing the standard of living through common and supportive action, and encourages people to have a sense of inclusion and belonging through political, economic and social participation. FRENTE CONTINENTAL DE MUJERES
Industrialised and former central planned economies:
The big sale in the water supply market. Water supply, electricity, health and transport services, sectors that were formerly state monopolies, have all been privatised. This report focuses on the privatisation of water, which has been characterised by non-transparency and ineffectiveness, higher rates and a lack of infrastructure improvements. The restructuring of the water supply sector has already had a negative impact on the social and economic status of the population, as higher prices have eroded real household income. IRINA MOULECHKOVA, PHD -  PLAMENKA MARKOVA, PHD
Will Canada pawn or polish the jewel in the crown of its social security system?. Canada’s most treasured social programme is public health care. For almost forty years, access to doctors and hospitals has been based on need, not ability to pay. Today the very purpose of public health care is in debate, from what is funded, to how it is delivered. How has a nation that has long viewed health care as a basic human right found itself here? Public uncertainty has emerged in the shadow of growing inequality and chronic public underfunding, and has been fed by the trade agenda of expanding commercialisation. ARMINE YALNIZYAN - BRUCE CAMPBELL
The unacknowledged social implications. The privatisation of services previously delivered by state-owned companies or public institutions began in the 1980s, and its pace intensified in the 1990s. In addition to the negative social impact of privatisation on consumers, the first casualties of privatisation have usually been the workers and the poor. Development co-operation, whose primary goal is poverty eradication, is using its limited resources, paid out of public funds, to engage in economic development on behalf of major corporations.
Federalism, privatisation and an individualist philosophy. Currently Italy is experiencing several radical institutional changes that are causing traumatic transformations in the life of its citizens. As a result of an ongoing debate, an institutional reform to decentralise the organisation of the State was implemented. This is a dangerous mechanism that occurs in a general framework where impulses towards privatisation are multiplying. The government is using it instrumentally in order to reduce the State’s role as guarantor of individual rights. ALESSANDRO MESSINA - MARTINO MAZZONIS
The poor unprotected. Privatisation increased in the 1990s, when the government needed to decrease its debt burden to make the economy competitive and to adopt the EURO. The focus was on making public services cheaper rather than on safeguarding public interests or fulfilling its human rights obligations. Underestimating the need for regulation, supervision and enforcement, the State has abandoned its human rights obligations. The poor, particularly women, have little protection against price increases and unemployment. MYRIAM VANDER STICHELE
The current undermining of the Welfare State. "A society that promotes the winners and their interests at the expense of the weakest does not deserve the designation «civilised». The new poverty is being ignored, accepted or covered up by vulgar and seductive speeches about solidarity and fair distribution. The fact is that the large middle class has pulled a curtain over Norwegian reality". Ivar Brevik. ASBJØRN WAHL - GUNHILD ØRSTAVIK
An urgent need for public awareness. The history of privatisation policies in Portugal is not linked to structural adjustment programmes or other direct intervention by the World Bank or the IMF. Its effects are only now starting to be visible to the common citizen. The government directs all the processes aimed at the privatisation of public services, and the scarce and vague information that reaches the population is usually belated and incomplete. CATARINA CORDAS - PATRÍCIA MELO - RUI DOMINGOS
A priority debate postponed. Since the mid-1980s, the successive governments have promoted privatisation as an instrument of either financial or public policy. So far, state bodies have shown little will to measure the social impact of this process – either in Spain or in Latin America, where Spanish capital has had an active role. It is urgent to increase public expenditure and redirect public resources to areas where they will be most likely to bring about redistribution of income and opportunity. VÍCTOR RENES - CARMEN GONZÁLEZ
Privatisation: a troubling legacy. Privatisation in the UK has left a troubling legacy. Multinational corporations now control many basic services, often requiring complex regulation to protect service provision. Workforces are often reduced. Many low-paid workers in privatised sectors, particularly women, earn less and have less job security. The sale of public housing has contributed to homelessness and housing difficulties for low-income and other vulnerable groups. KEN JONES with FRAN BENNETT
Service industry deregulation: corporate crime and tougher disciplines on the poor. Although criminal activity within the private service industries has been an important factor in the current recession, the service industry continues to form the basis for the U.S. negotiating position on the General Agreement on Trade in Services. These industries continue to target public service assets for takeover and to globalize their practices, even as new details of scandal emerge daily. President Bush’s plan for assisting the poorest in the U.S. imposes a range of tough new regulations that require welfare assistance beneficiaries to work more in exchange for fewer benefits. STEVE SUPPAN
Sources and resources