What do Cable & Wireless, British Telecom, Amersham International (Pharmaceutical), Britoil (Petroleum), Rolls Royce, British Gas, British Telecom, Associated British Ports, Enterprise Oil, Jaguar/Land Rover, British Steel, British Rail, Regional Water Companies, Electric Distribution Companies and British Airways all have in common? These were all government owned companies who were privatized by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during her reign from May 1979 to November 1990.
In her memoirs, she described the sale of state assets as essential to “eroding the corrosive and corrupt effects of socialism.” I believe that the British PM understood that the state itself must curtail the limits of its involvement in a capitalist democracy.
Globally, there are but a few state owned/controlled companies that I can think of that are competitive, efficient, well managed and not corrupt. When a company is state run, it allows the government to extend its control far beyond its desired mandate because it employs individuals. Employment of individuals is a crucial ingredient in the control of citizens since it has control over that person’s financial ability and the means to put food on their table.
Democracy and capitalism are inseparable brothers. In its purest form, it is virtually impossible for one to exist without the other. I am a capitalist and as such prescribe to the doctrines of democracy. I strongly feel that the proposed nationalization of Belize Electricity Ltd. was planned and orchestrated in order to nationalize the company. I am against any form of nationalization except in cases of war and when there is an extreme threat against the nation and it’s the country’s best and only interest to nationalize that company.
This current pattern of nationalization is unsettling and only the government knows how far it will go. The main reason for my opposition is that it gives the state further control over both services and individuals. I believe that the job of any democratic government is not to employ, but rather to create the avenue and atmosphere to increase employment and investment... nationalization does not provide this.
Nationalized companies have proven to be inefficient, bureaucratic like the government and most often corrupt. The greatest advantage state controlled companies have is that individuals who work for them rarely speak out against any government policy because they work for the state. Free speech is a vital component of democracy and when the potential fear of free speech is created, it’s undemocratic.
State controlled companies all too often are not productive because in the majority of cases, the right man is not afforded the chance to get promoted or lead the company. These are generally given to persons who are party loyalists or insiders. In Belize this will not be different.
While there are those who will say that GOB taking over any company is in our best interest because of X, Y, and Z, it may be that our own tax monies may subsidize these same operations in the long term. While the problem might not be now, there is no guarantee that this present administration will be in power forever and only time will tell what another administration will do with companies they control. In the short term it may seem like the best idea, but we may live to regret it. As Belizeans we need to start looking years ahead and realize that the actions we take now will come back to haunt us later.
It’s all about the people! The Reporter