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2 June 2005 Edition

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Public-private partnerships: A turn to the left?

A recent edition of RTÉ's Prime Time gave a glimpse of the true benefit of public private partnerships to the taxpayers of the 26-County state. It showed how private companies will make €5.5 billion from the public through tolls on the state's motorways in the coming years. In their current form, PPPs appear to be solely designed for the benefit of private companies.

However, we in DIT Ógra Shinn Féin believe there is a future for PPPs in a socialist government led by Sinn Féin. We believe PPPs can take a radical turn to the left.

Other left-wing parties throughout the world and within the 26-County state have found, after winning an election on the back of a social inclusion-based agenda, that they were unable to implement their policies. This is because their voter base may control the majority of the votes within the nation, but they control very little of the economic wealth.

The right views the government's role within society as to serve and protect the interests of business, thus ring fencing the class system of capitalism. This inequality in the distribution of wealth results in the majority, the working class, having a minority say in the running of their society.

We believe that a different form of PPPs could radically challenge the inequality in control of the means of production. We envisage a form of PPPs where the investors are the working classes.

Take the Corrib gas field in Mayo, currently being developed for exploitation by a British-owned multinational corporation, which will not pay any royalties to the state and the bare minimum of tax for a resource that belongs to the people of this island.

If the government wanted to develop such a project, it could set up a company and appoint directors, then open up investment to union registered workers. Workers wishing to invest in such a project would commit to weekly/monthly payments into the company for a set period, similar to the set up with SSIAs. Each individual worker would not be allowed to own any more than one per cent in any one company.

This would stop the creation of a new middle or upper class and keep the ownership of the means of production in the hands of the greatest number of people.

Union registration is necessary to keep multinational investment corporations out of such a scheme. If even half of the workers registered with the ICTU alone (770,000 members) invested €20 a week, this would raise nearly €8 million per week to finance such a project.

The investor, ie. the worker, would only be allowed to sell shares to other union registered workers, creating a closed/protected stock market. Each worker would only be allowed sell 75% of their shares, thus forcing workers to set aside for their retirement, a step to avert the pensions time bomb that the 26-County state is facing and the government is choosing to ignore, while still giving a large degree of freedom to the shareholder/worker.

We believe this model, while an unfinished concept, has great potential.

We hope to start a debate which would lead to the flow of ideas to turn this concept into a policy document.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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