Workers’ Party Submission to the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities September 28, 2010Posted by Garibaldy in Workers' Party.
From the Introduction to the Submission (click here to read the full submission)
The Workers’ Party notes that the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities was established in July this year.
In the normal course of events the Workers’ Party would welcome the establishment of such a body. We believe that our publicly-owned enterprises including, in particular, our semi-state commercial companies can play a vital role in helping to lead this country out of the mess into which it has been landed by the bankers, the land speculators, and insufficient and incompetent regulation. We further believe that the people, as the ultimate owners of our publicly-owned commercial state companies should be consulted on the state of these companies; whether, for example, the boards of these companies reflects the needs of the citizen as shareholder; and whether the protocols for the appointment of directors by the government bear scrutiny.
We must however place on record our firm conviction that this review is not being held in good faith. We believe that the Department of Finance, which established this review, has a clearly preferred outcome and that the sole purpose of the review is to provide a publicity and political fig leaf for an already decided policy. There are three very firm pillars for this belief.
The terms of reference of the review are both prescriptive and restrictive. We can let the terms speak for themselves: “1. To consider the potential for asset disposals in the public sector, including commercial state bodies, in view of the indebtedness of the State;
2. To draw up a list of possible asset disposals;”.
The terms quoted above clearly indicate that the Minister wishes to engage in wholesale privatisation and/or asset stripping of our public resources and he merely wishes advice on how best to rob the orchard.
The composition of the review body gives us no confidence that an unbiased review of State Assets, and our publicly-owned enterprises and companies will take place. In particular the nomination of Mr Colm McCarthy as chair of the review gives us cause for concern. Mr McCarthy has been a virulent and high profile anti-state enterprise ideologue and propagandist for several decades, and has always been a champion and advocate of private profit without any regard to the public good. Furthermore Mr McCarthy has stated in public that in his comments on the 2009 Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, he sometimes deliberately strayed from the economic to the political sphere and was, in effect, a kite flier for proposed government policy. To put such a person as chairman of this review is a clear travesty of even the most strained concept of impartiality.
The Minister has set September 10th as the final date for the acceptance of public submissions. This, despite the fact the review itself was only announced in mid-July. This has left a mere eight-week window, at the height of the holiday season, for concerned citizens and bodies to make their views known to the review body. There is no good reason why the announcement of the review and the announcement of the date for submissions could not have occurred in June or indeed in May. It is very clear from many remarks made by the Minister during the year and more particularly by the Chairman in Volume II of the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, published in July last year, that the process of the wholesale disposal of State Assets has been under active consideration for over a year. Therefore the window allowed for public consultation seems deliberately designed to exclude rather than include.
Bearing in mind the reservations expressed above we enclose our submission to the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities.