Sunday, August 7

Married’s tweet

This Friday, the newspaper The world He opened his paper edition with the following full-page headline: “Ribera proposes to nationalize the hydroelectric plant in the Podemos style.” With the speed of reflexes that characterizes him every time he glimpses a possibility of an attack on the Government, Pablo Casado uploaded the screenshot of the headline on his Twitter account, with the comment: “Exprópiese …”. The message is very simple, in line with the communication strategy to which the right wing has accustomed us: the irresponsible Pedro Sánchez and his Bolshevik cronies constitute a threat against the free market and private property. From there they usually go to the star slogan, that the Government is illegitimate and it is urgent to throw it out of Moncloa to save Spain from the catastrophe.

Married is very young. Insultingly young. To get an idea, he was a rookie deputy for Avila when the events of Operation Kitchen. He would be, therefore, a teenager when José María Aznar undertook the most ambitious privatization program in the history of Spain, and a brat when Felipe González opened the ban on the dismantling of the public business sector. Married should read Birds of RaPPiña, that fundamental work of the unforgettable journalist Jesús Mota that describes how Aznar, as soon as he arrived at Moncloa in 1996, launched with his ministers Rodrigo Rato and Josep Piqué “ the great expropriation, the birth of the business class at the service of the PP ” If you do not have time to read a voluminous book, you could find more succinct documents on the internet that show that, long before his ingenious ” Exprópiese … ”, there was a devastating ” Surrender ” that pulverized the public business sector of Spain , much of which was highly profitable, provided huge resources to the state coffers and, most importantly, was at the service of citizens, not the voracity of investment funds.

Let’s look at some data. In 1985, there were 130 companies with majority participation of the State; nowadays they barely spend a fortnight. Between 1992 and 1999, the weight of state-owned companies in the stock market plummeted from 16.6% to 0.34%. In 2015, Spain was behind the EU in the share of the public business sector in GDP (4.4%), only surpassed by the United Kingdom, Portugal and Ireland. And it ranked second to last in the number of workers in public companies in relation to the total number of employees in the country: 0.8%. Compare the figure with those of Slovenia (9%), Finland (7.2%) or France (6.9%).

The privatization fury of the 1990s was for many reasons. In particular, the neoliberal pressures of the 1989 Washington Consensus (which had its prelude in the 1980s with Thatcherism in the United Kingdom and Reaganism in the United States) and the harsh demands of the Maastricht Treaty on fiscal matters, which led some European governments , among them that of Felipe González, to sell State shares in public companies to obtain immediate liquidity and balance the deficit accounts. Throughout the world the fatalistic discourse was established that, in the face of the unstoppable advance of globalization, countries had to prepare to be increasingly competitive, and this happened, among other things, by transferring public companies to the private sector , arguing that this is more effective as a manager. Under the protection of the new doctrine, in some countries, especially in Spain, scandalous balls took place and a new business elite was consolidated on the shoulders of companies, many of them of proven profitability, that had belonged to all Spaniards.

Perhaps Casado ignores it, but Spain had a public banking corporation, created in 1991 under the name of Argentaria, which could become a powerful social instrument within a free market and that eight years later ended up becoming the last letter of BBVA. Or that Bankia arose from the merger of seven savings banks, which perhaps did not produce stratospheric benefits to shareholders, but allocated large sums to social works in their geographical areas and enjoyed much greater confidence from citizens than the rest of the entities. financial Telefónica (to which Villalonga, Aznar’s desk friend who became the company’s emperor, removed the accent, supposedly to underline its galactic dimensions) also belonged to all Spaniards, as did Endesa, Gas Natural, Repsol, Tabacalera or Indra. I don’t know what would have happened if the State had kept them. In order to know if the privatizations were beneficial for society, or to what extent they were, it is not enough for us to be told that companies today have astronomical income, which will undoubtedly make their shareholders happy; It is also necessary to quantify their direct contribution to the State coffers (beyond the ” irrigation effect ” on the economy) or their commitment to the quality of life of citizens (for example, if they facilitate communications or maintain bank branches in urban centers that do not provide them with sufficient profitability). I don’t know if there is a comprehensive study in this regard; I admit that I don’t know him.

The only thing I know for sure is that, in the early 1990s, the discourse was installed that the private sector is by its very nature more effective as a manager than the public sector, despite the abundance of evidence that prevents a categorical conclusion . And that thirty years later there does not seem to be a forceful response to that speech, particularly from the European social democracies. At best, there are almost heroic efforts by certain countries, with France at the forefront, to save the junk of their public sector from the onslaught of a neoliberalism that is anxiously awaiting the moment to put its hand in those treasures.

Now, as a result of the scandalous rises in the price of electricity in Spain, the Government is threatening to create a public electricity company – as in fact it exists in many developed countries – to manage hydroelectric concessions as they expire. We will see how far the momentum goes, and if it can become the starting point for a more ambitious reinforcement of the role of the State in the face of the powerful currents of thought that seek to reduce it to a minimum. Casado interestedly confuses the concepts and calls expropriation what, if carried out, would be a renationalization. What for him is a ” Express yourself … ”, for many citizens it would be a ” Give yourself back … ”.