Economics – how hard can it be?
I am no economist.
However as a mere human being, with nothing like the vast intelligence of our esteemed leaders, I am trying to understand “economics” as implemented by Mrs Thatcher and her most recent apprentice Mr G Osborne.
Just to set the scene – and I cannot guarantee all the details – the Anglo Saxon approach since Thatcher/Reagan (and before) has been to pass control over industry and commerce to private sector banks, finance houses and corporations. It was promised that the wealth would trickle down to the rest of us.
Everything for sale
In the UK that meant the selloff, at bargain prices, of British Telecom, the entire energy supply, water, rail, British Aerospace, Cable and Wireless, British Steel, Rolls Royce, Jaguar, British Petroleum, British Airways, British Leyland, Associated British Ports, Enterprise Oil, British Coal, British Shipbuilders, National Freight Corporation, Amersham International, British Airports Authority, Eurostar and more recently the Post Office and Royal Mail. If anyone is interested the full list can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_privatizations
Whole chunks of the NHS are now in private hands, with £billions being tendered for at any given moment.
We all benefit from privatisation?
So, how does the general population, which the Government is elected to “serve”, benefit from all of this? Because surely, that’s what Osborne’s economics is all about – making sure that we all share in the combined fruits of our labours rather then it being a mechanism to make a tiny number of people very, very rich.
Well, Margaret Thatcher created headlines and excitement with her speech wishing for a society ‘where owning shares is as common as having a car’ in 1985, at the Tory Party conference.
Some 76 per cent of households own a car or van today, whereas only 19 per cent of adults own shares now. Apparently the 1% bought the shares as the poor cashed them in to pay for increasing energy bills etc.
And we were promised that all of our services would be better once they faced competition and were not state owned monopolies. There have no doubt been improvements but, I would argue, those have been more about the advancing technologies than the simple fact that the private sector runs the show. Are our trains cheaper, in real terms, and better? Do we get cheaper energy and better service? Maybe there are lessons to be learnt from East Coast Mainline rail franchise. In 2009 National Express had to give up the franchise because they could not make any money; in 2014, after 5 years in public hands, it gave £225m back to the Treasury (making a total of £1bn over the 5 years); then in 2015 it was privatised again.
And who actually owns our utilities and industries?
When Thatcher had us all dreaming of the day when every citizen would have a stake in our national industries everything looked rosy. In actuality our water, electricity, gas, transport and a host of other utilities are now owned by the state governments of Spain, France, the Netherlands, German and others. Almost every time we take a train journey or turn on a light we are subsidising citizens of one or other of those countries. Fantastic! The dream of privatisation is well and truly fulfilled.
As we watch our steel industry go the way of our coal mines, a far right Conservative government is handing our nuclear power to the Chinese state along with HS2. Now that is irony. But not to worry, the Chinese have promised to build some theme parks, with shopping facilities, which we really, really need.
Oh and there are a few other, British, bits and pieces that the Chinese own :
Investor Value Share Size Partner/Target Sector Nanjing Auto $100 MG Transport China Development Bank $800 1% Anglo-American Metals China Development Bank $3,040 3% Barclays Finance SAFE $2,010 1% BP Energy CIC $370 1% Diageo Agriculture Sinochem $880 100% Emerald Energy Energy CIC $450 19% Songbird Estates Real estate CIC $960 2% Apax Finance Finance CNPC $510 50% INEOS Britain Energy CIC $920 9% Thames Water Utilities Bright Foods $1,940 60% Weetabix Agriculture SAFE $440 Real estate SAFE $200 10% Veolia Water Utilities Sinopec $1,500 49% Talisman Energy Energy CIC $730 10% Ferrovial Transport CIC $400 Deutsche Bank Real estate SAFE $110 49% One Angel Square Real estate SAFE $840 40% UPP Group Real estate Geely Auto $150 100% Manganese Bronze Transport Dalian Wanda $1,090 Real estate Dalian Wanda $500 92% Sunseeker Transport Ping An $390 Commerz Real Real estate Fosun $100 Real estate Huawei $200 Technology China South Industries $100 Transport Shanghai Greenland $980 Minerva Real estate ICBC $690 60% Standard Bank Finance Shanghai Greenland $990 Commercial Estates Group Real estate Geely Auto $200 100% Emerald Automotive Transport Sanpower $790 89% House of Fraser Other China Life $950 70% Qatar Holding Real estate China Construction Bank $190 Real estate Lenovo $1,540 100% PizzaExpress Agriculture SAFE $170 49% Statkraft Energy Minsheng Bank and Advanced Business Park $1,510 Real estate SAFE $290 50% Fosse Shopping Park Other China General Nuclear $160 100% Electricite du France Energy Ping An $480 100% Tower Place Real estate Ctrip $160 100% Travelfusion Tourism Fosun $140 5% Thomas Cook Group Tourism Geely Auto $370 Transport CSR $190 100% Specialist Machine Developments Transport $28,530
© Data compiled by The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation. All rights reserved
In the words of the Daily Mail :
“Without a thought to the future, we’ve sold four of our big six energy firms to foreigners who view us as little more than a useful profit centre.
In fact, the day may well come when we no longer own any of our vital public services at all.”
Thank you Mrs Thatcher and, of course, Mr Osborne. Simple really.
Jim Moores can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org