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<nettime> Le Monde diplo: road map for privatization
Fred Heutte on Tue, 15 Jun 2004 16:17:52 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Le Monde diplo: road map for privatization


The great leap backwards

Under pressure the European Commission may have agreed to mention the need
to maintain social cohesion and universal access to services, but it has
made no specific reference to state ownership of those services. This is
not surprising considering the undisguised enthusiasm of Brussels for
free-market economics.

by Serge Halimi

IT IS all going to come crashing down. According to a new study by
Standard and Poor’s, the Cassandra of rating agencies, the public sector
is in trouble almost everywhere. The study predicts that by 2050 debt will
stand at more than twice gross domestic product in Germany, France,
Portugal, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic, and at 700% in Japan. The
60% ceiling imposed by the European Union’s security pact will be a
distant memory.

Why such gloom? The problem, according to Standard and Poor’s, is old
people. There are too many of them and they are too old. The agency says
that pensions are too high and birth rates too low. It predicts a glorious
future in which almost every country experiences fiscal meltdown within
the next 25 years (1).

German liberals are also beginning to make bleak predictions. According to
the state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Wolfgang Böhmer, "to show what could
happen without a change in policy is not only legitimate, but necessary".
These politicians have even claimed that imagining horror stories is the
right method of selling painful reforms (2). French health minister
Philippe Douste-Blazy seems to have caught on to this "right method" too.
Introducing his health insurance plan on French television in May, he
said: "With a deficit of ¤23,000 per second, we won’t make it . . . We are
bankrupt. If we do nothing, then state healthcare is finished" (3).

But of course they will do something. The Institut Montaigne, a thinktank
chaired by Claude Bébéar, who also happens to chair the board of one of
the world’s largest private insurance companies, Axa, already has a few
ideas. One is called shared health cover. In an attempt to "encourage
patient responsibility and keep a check, if necessary, on expenditure",
the scheme proposes to exclude "certain kinds of traffic accident and
sporting activity that should be covered by individual insurance
policies". It also features an "annual excess charge per family, to be
waived if appropriate prevention procedures are adhered to" (4) . . .

[remainder at MondeDiplo.com]

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