The Privatization of a public institution.

A rising issue in contemporary Ireland is privatization. Many people have trouble truly understanding what ‘is’ privatization, so let me give you the best analogy that I could conceive.

Imagine and try to see a decaying building, one that has been neglected and left in disrepair. It’s falling apart, the floor is rotting and the windows are shattered. Gusts of wind travel freely through this building and occasionally the impoverished and homeless sleep in it. It is located near the center of the city it belongs too and those response for it in the City Council view it as a waste of space.  Though you can’t simply pretend that this building became this way for no reason, ‘somebody’ had authority over it and ‘somebody’ let it get to the point it got too.

You can’t simply look at the building and disregard the reason for it’s pathetic state, in this way, I would argue that you cannot do the same with a public institution that is on the verge or has already been privatized. Why is the building in this state? Who allowed it to get to this state? Why did they do so?

When you examine a public institution and talk about privatization these are the exact questions you have to ask yourself as well. In many cases the answers are quite astonishing, in the case of Ireland which is the most direct and relevant example, we see several institutions slowly falling into neglect and disrepair and this isn’t happening by any accident.

The HSE, for example has been slowly sub-contracting the ‘home help’ service to private companies. The reason for this is unclear to be honest with you, but I can tell you this. The HSE pays its home helps about four euro more per hour than the private companies do, therefore the profit margin which the private companies generate is remarkably higher.

The Home Help service, an integral part of society in Ireland and a service that allows for elderly people to go about their business while the key things for them are looked after (cleaning / shopping etc). This means that the vital things for an older person are taken care of and they don’t need to be in a nursing home. The privatization and the sub-contracting of this service means that a) it’s more likely there will be a fee introduced and b) it will be run like a business which it really isn’t.

Essentially the home help service is being portrayed as something that’s untenable due to it’s ‘expensive’ stance and it’s slowly being given out to other companies to fulfill. It is essentially being prepared for privatization in a way which does not make the public question it, a slow cutting of funding over a gradual period of time ensures that it does not look suspicious and the cutting of funding is ‘justified’.

Read more here:

Another great example of letting a utility service fall into disrepair, cutting funding from it, letting it collapse is the water utility services in Ireland. Consider that the water utilities in Ireland have been in neglect for the past twenty five years, irrespective of the supposed economic growth, the upkeep of the utilities was stilled ignored.  Now, in 2013/14 people in Ireland were suddenly informed that the upkeep of water would require a whole new investment along with the creation of a company. Largely the same thing happened in the United Kingdom, except thirty years ago.

The government, under Thatcher and previously failed to invest and maintain the water utilities appropriately and as a result the water services were privatized. Today they report billions in profit, which is not taxed through the abuse of various loopholes.  The cost for these water utilities have also went up a whopping 720% since the 1980s in the UK. This is an apt and suitable comparison to what could happen in Ireland, in particular with the way in which the government has refused to give a permanent promise with relation to Irish Water being privatized!

On profit in the UK:

Where does this all ultimately come together? Well, the contracts handed out for those companies that conduct the work in place of the HSE, or in the place of the County Councils with regards to Irish Water are given to allies or friends. In the case of Irish Water, many contracts have been handed out to Denis O’Brien or his subsidiaries, This isn’t something that’s advertised obviously so one must actually look into it to discover it.

What has hit people is that the company Irish Water was set up off tax payer money and at a great cost. The fear is that the company that has been set up with tax payer funds, will eventually be sold at a discount price to a businessman (likely a friend / ally of the political party in government) and the entity will be treated as a pure business, wherein the objective is to make profit rather than to provide a community service, even though water is a human right.

The utility services for water is the decaying building that I spoke about at the start, left to rot for years, neglected and ignored. When a private interest aligned closely to those who are supposedly tasked with maintaining this building express their “entrepreneurial” interest, they are given the building for pennies and allowed to exploit it for it’s full potential with themselves as the only benefactor.

This happens everywhere and it happens right underneath our noses. There are intentions to do it to our national bus service and some routes have already been cut out and given to private companies (as far back as 2003), interestingly enough there was nothing untenable about expanding the bus route from Cork-Dublin yet an entire franchise was founded. There’s other examples of this in the aqua culture sector of Ireland’s industry, where a huge potential for something that could generate revenue with the state as the benefactor has been gradually sold out.

It’s a matter of actually looking into the purposeful destruction of great sources of revenue for the people because once you find it, it’s impossible to disregard.