• The #Rif and the Moroccan State’s Economic Pressure Cooker

    Although these demands were drafted to respond to the concerns of the Rif, they echo similar ones carried by social movements throughout #Morocco. The #Hirak emerged from similar economic injustices found throughout the wide margins of the Makhzenist state, the neglected “backlands” that actually constitute the vast majority of the country. It should come as no surprise then that their movement has spread more easily to villages and towns in the Atlas (Central Morocco) and Asammr (Southeast) than to the former colonial metropolises (Rabat-Casablanca). Vestiges of colonialism, roads and train lines point to these wealthy urban centers, taking capital, raw resources and cheap migrant labor from the margins in return for remittances, “development” aid and weak tourism.

    In these epicentres of Moroccan capital, business goes on as usual. The neoliberal war waged on the poor rages on, encouraged and facilitated by institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. Today, the state works diligently to meet the requirements of their international debtors, beginning to sketch out the grounds for a new social contract. “It is time for the state to take its hands off certain sectors, like health and education” declared former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane at the African Bank of Development’s 2014 conference, “the role of the state should be limited to assisting private operators who wish to engage in these sectors.”

    Indeed, the state has began to savagely privatize the education sector, making the 1984 fee hike of $5 appear miniscule. In the last few years, public elementary and secondary schools have been closing left and right. According to a report by militant organisations, 191 have closed in Casablanca and Rabat alone between 2008 and 2013. Those that remain are seeing overcrowding with some classrooms sometimes holding more than 70 students. Meanwhile, students at public universities will begin to pay subscription fees and graduate students will begin to pay tuition.

    Public health has also been undermined with the state completely disengaging itself from the sector — no new public hospitals are planned, increasingly fewer doctors are employed and equipment is rarely purchased or renewed. Instead, the state works in favor of expensive private clinics which escape regulations and controls. Public water and electricity services have also been privatized, with the public National Office for Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE) seeing entire cities taken off its grid, its tax-funded infrastructures given almost for free to foreign multinationals like France’s Suez Environnement and Veolia.

    #Privatization has meant increasing costs across the board, while the minimum wage has remained low at $250 per month. And that’s if you’re not part of the 10.7% that is unemployed, reaching 25.5% amongst younger Moroccans. Meanwhile, higher costs of rent, subsidy cuts on fuel (with more to come on other basic goods) and increasing costs of living in general have ravaged both proletarian and middle class households. Even lentils, considered the food of the poor, have almost tripled in price from about $1 to almost $3 per kilogram.

    Yet, it is not difficult to see why the state has so fully embraced these #neoliberal policies despite the anger they provoke. Rampant liberalization of the public sector has generally meant its recuperation by multinationals owned by the private Societé Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), the royal investment holding: from mining corporations like Managem, to banks like Attijariwafa Bank, to real estate giants like Addoha.

    Cracks in the Pressure Cooker

    In this context of capitalist predation, the uprising in the Rif should be seen as a justified expression of the popular anger which has been boiling both, under and over the surface for decades. But the last decade demarks itself as a period of unprecedented proliferation in social, political and even environmental movements. According to sociologist Abderrahman Rachik Social, labor-related protests and strikes have shot up by 200% since 2012, while the totality of protest actions in the country have gone from 700 protests in 2005 to 18,000 last year.

  • #Beirut Municipality Sells Beirut’s Collective Memory and the Last of its Green Spaces

    Transplanting the Beirut #Municipal_Stadium from Tarik al-Jadideh to #Horsh_Beirut (the Pine Forest) in Qasqas and transforming the #Beirut_Hippodrome (a horse-racing facility) to something like Zaitunay Bay (a posh development project) is no longer a fantasy that entertains the minds of developers but a concrete project (pun intended) ready to be implemented as soon as possible. Preliminary studies have been completed and last December the Lebanese cabinet approved a plan by the Beirut municipality to invest in public lands in al-Mazraa real estate area. What is happening now destroys all that is left of the city we inherited — its flaws notwithstanding — and destroys whatever chance we have to impose something of the “right to the city” idea in this real estate speculators paradise that is (...)

    #Articles #green_space #Lebanon #Municipality_of_Beirut #PPPs #privatization #public_space #urbanization #Series_and_Features

  • The risks of rent-seeking: What kind of future do we want for our industry and energy?

    Protesters against the rise of rent prices in #Lebanon on April 8, 2014. Large poster reads :"Free us from the new rent laws." (Photo: Marwan Tahtah) Protesters against the rise of rent prices in Lebanon on April 8, 2014. Large poster reads :"Free us from the new rent laws." (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

    I am not debating the issue of whether or not to extract #Oil, except to warn against wrongly believing hydrocarbons are a panacea for all ills. On the contrary, as many experts have warned, if oil is dealt with as a silver bullet, it could destroy what is left of our productive economic activity.

    Alain Tabourian

    read (...)

    #Opinion #Articles #Beddawi #electricite_du_liban #energy_and_water #PPPs #privatization #rentier_economy #Zahrani

  • #Sanayeh_Garden : The #privatization of public spaces

    A large crowd gathered on Sunday to participate to the Grand opening of the renovated Sanayeh Park in #Beirut, Lebanon on June 1, 2014. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah) A large crowd gathered on Sunday to participate to the Grand opening of the renovated Sanayeh Park in Beirut, Lebanon on June 1, 2014. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

    After two years of hype and $US 2.5 million spent on renovation, Sanayeh Garden, one of the oldest and largest public spaces in Beirut, finally opened last weekend. Rather than offering a modest solution to the desperate desire for green, inclusive spaces in the city, the result is a growing conflict over the essence of public spaces, as well as what constitutes acceptable behaviors within them. (...)

    #Culture_&_Society #Articles #PPPs #public_space

  • Lebanese Government to push for #privatization of public utilities with #World_Bank cover


    World Bank Group President #Jim_Yong_Kim (L) gestures during a joint press conference alongside the Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf (R), after the end of their meeting in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on June 1, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Stringer) World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim (L) gestures during a joint press conference alongside the Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf (R), after the end of their meeting in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on June 1, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Stringer)

    On Tuesday, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim concluded his visit to #Lebanon. However, leaks about the talks he held in Beirut suggest the issues discussed go far beyond the stated purpose of his meetings, namely (...)

    #Articles #electricity #Lebanon #water

  • The Economist explains: Why is the Royal Mail being privatised? | The Economist

    ON October 11th the British government will sell around 60% of its stake in the Royal Mail, the state-owned postal service, via a flotation on the London Stock Exchange. Unlike other former state-owned businesses such as telecoms firms, energy providers and the railways, Royal Mail has so far avoided privatisation. Previous attempts failed due to backbench revolts by wayward MPs. Even Margaret Thatcher, who as prime minister started Britain’s sell-off of public assets, was “not prepared to have the Queen’s head privatised”, a reference to the iconic stamps which bear a motif of the bejewelled monarch. So why is the Royal Mail being privatised now?
    The British government claims privatisation will give the company access to private capital and improve its competitiveness. The need for more investment is urgent. Changing demand for postal services have transformed its business model. Parcel volumes are increasing because of the boom in internet shopping, but the numbers of letters sent daily fell from 82m in 2004 to just 58m in 2013. The government says it cannot afford to invest itself to help Royal Mail cope with this shift. It has already ploughed £3 billion ($4.7 billion) into modernising the Post Office’s network of 11,500 branches, which are not included in the sale. Last month George Osborne, the chancellor, said that public-sector spending cuts may last until 2020. Tapping the stockmarket is seen as the only way of ensuring sufficient investment over the next few years. The government notes that the injection of private capital into postal services seems to have worked elsewhere. Belgium’s postal service returned to profitability soon after its part-privatisation in 2006 and it now enjoys profit margins of 17%. Similar increases in productivity and profitability can be seen at Austria Post and at Deutsche Post. Both companies have profit margins double that of Royal Mail.
    Privatisation also offers the government other benefits. A privately owned Royal Mail would mean that future disputes with the Communications Workers Union over postmen’s pay and conditions might cause less political damage to ministers. The sale will also help Mr Osborne meet his deficit-reduction targets; this week’s sale will produce up to £2 billion for the Treasury. A privatised Royal Mail would be less likely to be a liability in the future, as it would be harder to justify a public bail-out if it got into financial difficulties. Political motivations may play a role too. The coalition government privately hopes that a large sale of discounted shares to the public will bring back positive memories of the popular sell-offs of the 1980s, boosting its flagging poll ratings.
    But it is doubtful whether floating Royal Mail as a public company, rather than selling it to a single buyer, is the best way to achieve some of these aims. New research suggests that private companies invest more in the long term than publicly listed ones, which tend to focus on short-run profitability. Private companies are more able to absorb the financial costs associated with breaking intransigent unions and making big long-term investments, problems Royal Mail will face in the coming years. A private buyer might also make more money for the government than a flotation. Analysts at Canaccord Genuity, a bank, have suggested that Royal Mail is worth as much as 80% more than the value the government is floating it at. As Harold Macmillan, a former prime minister, once suggested, the British government may well find it is selling off the family silver too cheaply and to poor effect.

    –> “New research suggests that private companies invest more in the long term than publicly listed ones, which tend to focus on short-run profitability” !


  • Don’t buy the right-wing myth about #Detroit- http://www.salon.com/2013/07/23/dont_buy_the_right_wing_myth_about_detroit

    Conservatives want you to think high taxes drove people away. The real truth is much worse for their radical agenda

    Detroit isn’t just any old city — it happens to be the biggest population center in the state hit the hardest by the right’s corporate-written trade agenda. Indeed, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the state lost more jobs than any other from NAFTA (43,600, or 1 percent of its total job base) and lost another 79,500 jobs thanks to the China PNTR deal. And that’s just two of many such #trade_pacts. Add to this the city’s disproportionate reliance on American auto companies which made a series of horrific business decisions, and Detroit is a microcosmic cautionary tale about what happens when large corporations are allowed to write macro economic policy and dictate the economic future of an entire city.

    If told, this cautionary tale would likely spark a discussion about revising current trade deals, regulations, public investment and industrial policy in general. That is, it would spark precisely the discussion that the conservative movement and the corporations that fund politicians don’t want America to have. So the right works to make sure that discussion is short circuited by a narrative that focuses the Detroit story primarily on taxes and public pensions.


    That brings us to how this all plays into the right’s push to enact ever more regressive tax cuts, protect endless corporate welfare and legislate new reductions in workers’ guaranteed pensions.

    These latter objectives may seem unrelated, but they all complement each other when presented in the most politically opportunistic way. It’s a straightforward conservative formula: the right blames state and municipal budget problems exclusively on public employees’ retirement benefits, often underfunding those public pensions for years. The money raided from those pension funds is then used to enact expensive tax cuts and corporate welfare programs. After years of robbing those pension funds to pay for such giveaways, a crisis inevitably hits, and workers’ pension benefits are blamed — and then slashed. Meanwhile, the massive #tax_cuts and #corporate_subsidies are preserved, because we are led to believe they had nothing to do with the crisis. Ultimately, the extra monies taken from retirees are then often plowed into even more tax cuts and more corporate subsidies.

    We’ve seen this trick in states all over America lately. In Rhode Island, for instance, the state underfunded its public pensions for years, while giving away $356 million in a year in corporate subsidies (including an epically embarrassing $75 million to Curt Schilling). It then converted the pension system into a Wall Street boondoggle), all while preserving the subsidies.

    Similarly, in Kentucky, the state raided its public pension funds to finance $1.4 billion a year in tax subsidies, and then when the crisis hit, lawmakers there slashed pension benefits — not the corporate subsidies.

    The list of states and cities following this path goes on — but you get the point. In the conservative narrative about budgets in general, the focus is on the aggregate annual $333 million worth of state and local pension shortfalls — and left out of the story is the fact that, according to the New York Times, “states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies” in the form of #tax_loopholes and subsidies.”

    The mythology around Detroit, then, is just another version of this propaganda.

  • Putting Water Back in Public Hands - YouTube

    TheRealNews TRNN Published on 24 Apr 2013

    Nick Buxton: Paris and other cities have remunicipalised water that had been privatized saving users money and introducing more democracy and transparency

    via http://02mydafsoup-01.soup.io/post/310096772/Putting-Water-Back-in-Public-Hands

    #water #eau #Wasser #privatization #privatisation #Privatisierung #Remunicipalisation #Verstaatlichung