Wed Feb 6, 2013, 10:31 PM
HiPointDem (20,729 posts)
Greeks Defend Their Water From Privatization
“You can tell if a society is democratic if its water is available to everyone, if it’s clean, and in public hands.” That’s how Kostas Marioglou sees it. When he’s not distributing water meters and pipes from a warehouse as with his job at EYATH ( Thessaloniki’s State Water Utility) he is a union leader and organizer for Initiative 136, a citizen’s initiative to buy the water utility from the Greek government.
Greece is under enormous pressure to privatize its water system. As the country drowns in debt, the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank (often referred to as the “troika”) work with eager Greek political parties to balance the books by selling off public water. Greece wouldn’t be the first place to privatize public water utilities during a fiscal crisis. Conditioning loans based on full or partial water privatization is an increasingly common practice of international lenders – and much criticized.
In June 2010, the Ministry of Finance announced that through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, the Greek government would reduce its shares in EYATH and the Athens State Water Utility (EYDAP), from 74% to 51%. Since then, the Ministry has adjusted the target, planning to sell off 100% of its holdings in the two state companies. Today, approximately 21% of EYATH trades on the Athens stock market.
Archontopoulos and Mariglou are confounded by the government’s claim that it will reduce debt through privatization. An article entitled, Buying Back the Public 136 Euros at a Time, reports that ,“EYATH has an annual profit of 75 million Euros (EUR) and in 2010 and 2011, despite the debt crisis, their profit rose to 12.4 million and 20.18 million Euros, respectively.” That profit margin has, however, diminished in the last 9 months...“This is a silly excuse. The company’s value is estimated at 50 million Euros, while the country’s debt exceeds 400 billion.”
In a counter- strategy to allowing the Greek state selling off shares to private investors, Initiative 136 organizers are knocking on neighborhood doors to interest Thessaloniki’s households in buying a share for 136 euros each – which explains Initiative 136’s name. That might not seem like an onerous sum for a high-income country like Greece, “but with 35% employment,” said Marioglou, “I’m not so sure it will work.” Greek activists were moved by a show of solidarity at an October meeting of the European Water Assembly in Florence. There, European allies offered to help raise additional funds to purchase the company.
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