Part of Catastroika dedicated to water privatization
In this excellent documentary by Ari Hadjistefanou and Katerina Kitidi describing the history of privatization in Europe since Treuhand and the hostile takeover of East Germany from West Germany until the conquest plan of the Russian economy, the catastroika, special mention is made to the history of privatization of water companies. From the 50 ‘minute and on it is described what happened in Paris when Chirac gave Suez and Veolia the management of the water supply. The tariffs increased by 260% in total with no economic or technical justification. When the city mayorship changed hands, in 2010, the municipality took back control of water management. Unlike private companies they reduced tariffs by 8% and profits were invested in improving the water infrastructure networks. The documentary then mentions the case of Italy, where a referendum was held, with 97% of people saying no to the privatization of water. Still, the European authorities have asked the Monti government to include the water company in the latter package of privatizations. The next case described is the greek one. Watch it…
A few words by the creators
It was at the beginning of 1989 when the French academic Jacques Rupnik sat at his desk, in order to prepare a report on the state of the economic reforms in Mikhail Gorbatsov’s Soviet Union. The term that he used in describing the death rattle of the empire was “Catastroika”. In Yeltsin’s time, when Russia instituted maybe the biggest and least successful privatization experiment in the history of humanity, a group of Guardian reports assigned a different meaning to Rupnik’s term. “Catastroika” became synonym of the country’s complete destruction by market forces; the sell off of public property; and the steep deterioration of citizens’ living standards. Now, Catastroika’s unit of measurement was unemployment, social impoverishment, declining life expectancy, as well as the creation of a new cast of oligarchs, who took over the country’s reins. A few years later, a similar effort to massively privatize public property in unified Germany (which is presented as a model for Greece) created millions of unemployed and some of the biggest scandals in European history.
It is this “Catastroika” that is coming soon to Greece; to “Europe’s last Soviet Republic” as the MPs and the ministers of its former “socialist” government liked to call it. Catastroika is the logical aftermath and continuation of “Debtocracy”. Therefore, the logical sequence of our
first documentary, which examined the causes of the debt crisis in Greece and the European periphery as a whole.
Nevertheless, Catastroika is a virus that attacks not only the countries that radically change their economic system (like Russia) or countries under financial occupation. In fact, maybe the most unsuccessful privatization examples occur in financial superpowers that theoretically have the financial strength to control their negative consequences.
Catastroika can be spotted in post-Thatcherite Britain, where citizens were killed in accidents at the privatized rail network. It can be detected in the Dutch privatized and liberalized postal sector, where thousands of jobs have been cut and mail arrives at one’s door two to
three times per day. It can be detected even in California, which left her citizens in the dark when it deregulated the energy market.
However, its consequences are the gravest and most frightening at countries which fell in the trap of foreign lenders and are obliged to proceed to mass privatization. The public property sell-off which takes place in Greece has been tried several times in similar circumstances. The same people, who undertook the selling of public utilities in Latin American countries, now have moved their office in countries of the European periphery –and the most competent among them have been travelling to Athens during the last months.
The procedure always follows exactly the same steps: In the beginning, the government, in collaboration with mass media, starts a forceful attack against public servants, who are presented as responsible for all the country’s financial woes. The myth of the overextended public sector is often based on manipulated data from organizations supported and supporting the government of the time. Concurrently, specific public organizations are deliberately left unsupported, exasperating citizens due to their inefficiency. The process is completed by the sell-off of even the most profitable public organizations at a fraction of their real value.
Catastroika’s team is already travelling in many countries, collecting images, information and material on deregulation and privatization programs that have been implemented at the so-called “developed” world. The final result of the research is never black or white. The divide between the “social character” of the public sector vis-à-vis the inhumane face of the free market is equally simplistic as the theories of Milton Freedman that professed the need to privatize even the air that we breathe. The Greek case however supersedes the simple theoretical discussion on the role of the country in the economy.
Directors/Writers: Aris Chatzistefanou, Katerina Kitidi
Scientific advisor: Leonidas Vatikiotis
Production Manager: Thanos Tsantas
Edit: Aris Triantafyllou
Soundtrack: Active Member, Ermis Georgiadis
Other crew: Julia Kileri, Margarita Tsomou, Vaya Pantou, Christos Tsiknias,Graneta Karatza, Costas Efimeros
Production: Infowar Productions