Privatiseringars gåtfulla stupiditet

Effektivitet, konkurrens och valfrihet för kunden är de slitna mantran som används när privatiseringars konsekvenser ska säljas in och rationaliseras. En bransch som på ett  slående sätt motbevisar alla tre argumenten är produktionen, distributionen och försäljningen av elektricitet. James Meek har en lång men aldrig tråkig artikel i London Review of Books om hur utförsäljningen och privatiseringen av de statliga monopolen växte fram i Storbritannien under Thatchers styre på 1980-talet. Men det skulle lika gärna kunnat handla om Sverige. How We Happened to Sell Off Our Electricity

” Thatcher promised less state involvement in industry but the future of Britain’s energy supply now hinges on state-owned French companies based in Paris: Electricité de France, better known as EDF, and Areva, maker of nuclear power stations.”

”Now, in 2012, it’s clear that the result of electricity privatisation was to take power away from the people. Small British shareholders have no influence over the overwhelmingly non-British owners of the firms that generate and distribute power in Britain. The fact that individual households and small businesses can choose to switch from the confusing tariff of one oligopolistic supplier to another doesn’t protect them from sharp, unpredictable swings in prices.”

”What Littlechild, an academic with no business experience, didn’t fully take on board was that the reason private companies compete with each other isn’t that they like competition. They hate it, and will only compete if forced to do so. Rather than competing with a rival on price or product or revenue, they’ll try to eliminate the rival firm and take over its territory by buying it; or reach an unwritten agreement on an oligopolistic cartel of a few big firms, carving up the market between them.”

”Electricity isn’t a commodity like copper or coffee or water. It’s the only commodity that is both essential to modern life and impossible to store. An electricity system must be able to manufacture and transport as much power as the society it serves demands at every given moment, and not one watt less. The only efficient way to achieve this is for society to invest vast amounts of manpower and resources over generations to plan, build and maintain a network of power stations and supply cables, with excess capacity to deal with breakdowns and peaks in demand.”

”Free marketeers like Littlechild and Lawson might argue that, left to its own devices, the market would never have built nuclear power stations; it would always have gone for the cheapest option. But this is disingenuous. With electricity, the market can never be left alone. Coal might be the cheapest option, but it’s too dirty. Gas might be the cheapest option, but the more the country relies on gas, the more emergency reserves it will have to keep in storage – which the market won’t pay for. Helm’s most devastating point about electricity (and gas) privatisation in Britain is that these are not naturally public industries; nor are they naturally private. ‘It is extraordinary,’ he writes, ‘that anyone could have regarded these as anything other than political industries.’”

”Electricity privatisation hasn’t been a success in bringing down prices. Most recent figures suggest that British prices are typically right in the middle of the European average – higher than France’s, lower than Germany’s. It has been a failure in terms of British industry and management; the best measure of the scale of folly and betrayal by politicians of both parties is the simple fact that a reliable, badly run British electricity system was destroyed, rather than being reformed, only so that a large part of it could be taken over by a foreign version of the original. And it has been a failure in terms of clarity, in the sense that in order to fund investment, governments that boast about not raising taxes, or of taking low-earners out of the tax bracket, permit predominantly foreign-owned electricity companies to collect flat-rate taxes that hit the poor disproportionately.”

När privatiseringen sker byts ett monopol ut mot ett annat. I det ena har man själv kontroll genom ägande samt kan inkassera de inte försumbara vinsterna. I det andra har någon annan kontroll över både ägande som vinster. Men om de fördelar som skulle ske i form av effektivitet, konkurrens och valfrihet inte uppkommer, varför genomförs då dessa beslut?

Det uppenbara inhemska exemplet är förstås Fortums köp av Stockholms stads energibolag Birka Energi. Majoriteten av Fortums vinst kommer nu från de övervinster som görs på monopolet i Stockholm och varje år skickas miljard på miljard till aktieägarna i Helsingfors  från invånarna i Stockholm. Se härhär och här. En legitim fråga är vems intressen våra valda representanter egentligen representerar? Medborgarnas synliga händer eller marknadens dolda?

Mikael Nybergs förtjänstfulla granskning av vad han kallar Det stora tågrånet, avregleringen och fragmentariseringen av tågtrafiken, rullar oförtrutet vidare.

Inget nytt under solen alltså, fistad igen.

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