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PPP: Gov’t sell-out of social services to push prices higher, cause greater poverty for majority

The Aquino government today announced its plans to privatize major social service infrastructures LRT1 and MRT3. Also, it is putting up for grabs the construction contracts of three new toll ways: one connecting the SLEX (Southern Luzon Expressway) and NLEX (Northern Luzon Expressway), an extension of the SLEX, and an extension of the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) expressway.

Previously, the government approved a fare increase in mass rail transit services to which linked to plans to privatize the rail system, aiming to make the railway more “attractive” to investors. Expressway toll fare hikes were approved in lieu of the government’s framework of guaranteeing the profits of private capitalists in such public projects.

Aquino, in his speech in the PPP forum today, said the PPP is about “delivery of services to the people.” He further claimed “that this is one way we can provide to the Filipinos what is rightfully theirs.”These words smack of irony considering the increases in prices of utilities and services brought about by privatization schemes during the past and at present.

Privatization policy a failure

The more critical meanwhile points out that Aquino government’s PPP projects — essentially the “sell-out” of important social services — will mean higher prices of utilities and commodities, and will cause deeper poverty for majority of the country’s population.

Major privatization projects during the past have, in fact, failed to deliver its promises of better and more accessible services, and bigger returns for the government and the people. Utility rates for instance, have soared due to lopsided guarantees and privatization schemes.

An example would be the rise in power rates, wherein payments for the costs of unused electricity, which the government guaranteed to private investors, are being passed on to consumers. Water rates have also risen by 449 to 845 percent since MWSS was privatized in 1997.

The Aquino government promising change, thus, could be continuing a flawed policy which has been proven in the past to be perilous to public welfare and interest.

Profits for a few, poverty for many

An upsurge in the commodity prices will surely accompany the push for higher costs of transport. Considering that 70% of the Filipino population live with less than P104 a day, pushing for a rise in prices is not only insensitive but is treacherous.

The privatization policy is in fact a continuation of the past administrations’ adherence to the neoliberal ‘globalization’ dogma and is a confirmation that indeed, no substantial change in economic policy can be expected under Aquino.

The essence of privatization projects is government abandonment of its responsibility to provide services to the people while it implements onerous guarantees favouring abusive, profiteering businesses. PPP for the majority could actually mean “patong-patong na pahirap (great burden)” or “pagtataksil ng pamahalaan sa publiko (government treachery against the public).”

Behind the yellow mask of “reform” and “good government” is an anti-poor administration, one that chooses profits over the people’s welfare, one that campaigns against corruption in government but permits unfair and onerous contracts in favor of a few businesses and foreign investors.

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