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Howard's End: Lock Up The Silver!

The Prime Minister has invited key business leaders to an October forum with government ministers to build "working partnerships between stake holders and government." Time to again lock-up the nation's silver? John Howard writes.

Across the world political leaders are talking about forging new public-private partnerships. This is the new era of re-invented government.

"Public-private partnership" are such benign words that most of us miss the point.

But Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Al Gore et al, are all spearheading a complete structural change of government through public-private partnerships.

For crying out loud it was even part of the UN Millennium Summit agenda - and it's been in the UN since 1996.

Our Prime Minister, Helen Clark, now wants government and business leaders to identify policy initiatives to improve New Zealand's economic performance.

The business forum, to be held in Auckland on October 24, is "a further step in building partnerships between government and business," Miss Clark said.

According to the press release, government actively seeks partnerships across the economic sectors and society as a whole.

Really! - so let's break down the various components.

First of all, it is a partnership. It is also a business arrangement with the "partners" being public and private.

The public partners are central, local and foreign governments.They can all be involved - one, two or three at a time.

The private partners are local business, multinational and transnational corporations including non-governmental organisations.

Essentially, it is the shifting of government responsibility and government services into a partnership with other parties - primarily those who have deep pockets.

Because many central and local governments are "broke" and they simply can't extract more taxes from the populace, what is now being said by politicians is " Look, we need stronger hands and deeper pockets to help us do what we used to do. We're going to do it a little differently."

So the golden rule applies - he who has the gold makes the rules. They say they're going to do it in a public-private partnership.

No, it's not privatisation or corporatisation - it's just a partnership.

To illustrate, the people of a particular town or city don't want their taxes raised and the politicians, sensing their own political survival, don't want to do it either. So they enter into what is called "innovative financing."

The city water system in Dallas, for example, has just been shifted from being owned by the people into a new entity which is a partnership jointly owned by the government and business.

And its not just about water or sewerage - it applies to all manner of goods and services formerly provided by central and local governments. These people are now sitting around the corporate table where the bottom line is about power and rate or return.

So, what just happened? - a redistribution of assets!

A major asset has been shifted out of governmental hands into a new relationship - a public-private partnership which is very good for the "stakeholders" i.e. business.

There is a word for it and it's called facism - because facism is defined as the marriage between government and business.

The bottom line is profit - and the citizens now become customers.

Lock-up the family silver!


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