Another government-appointed taskforce of rightwing, market ideologues (this time appointed by Labour, the fools) has reported and, surprise, surprise, their report is a rightwing prescription without any supporting argument that it would be good for the country.
The headline recommendation of the Capital Market Development Taskforce is that the government sell shares in SOEs. The reasoning behind this major recommendation that would mean privatising the profits of billions of dollars worth public assets forever is incredibly lightweight. Just two pages in the 134 page report* are devoted to explaining why we ought to part-sell our our assets and half of that is taken up with a graph that supposedly shows other countries have allowed private investment in public assets but in fact shows nothing of the sort (Australia, that country we are supposedly trying to catch, actually has a higher portion of its state assets entirely publicly-owned than we do now).
Here is the entirety of the Taskforce’s reasoning for telling us to sell off our hard-built assets:
It would materially increase investors’ choices of domestic assets. Government holdings are extensive in the energy, land and environment, transport and infrastructure, and telecommunications sectors. In many other countries, such companies would be listed on the stock market and could be part of investors’ portfolios. Given the lack of perfect international integration in capital markets, the ability to invest in similar assets offshore does not fully compensate for the lack of these assets domestically.
The government, as owner, would benefit significantly from the capital market discipline and monitoring that would occur with a partial listing. Private sector participants with personal wealth at stake in these companies will be more effective monitoring agents than government can ever be.
It would materially improve the depth of our capital market, particularly in some of the areas in which central and local government is a key holder of assets. Partially floating some of these assets is the only way in which our share market can markedly increase in size in the near term. Bulking up the market in this way will also have the spillover benefit of making it more attractive to other companies considering listing on the market, by increasing activity and investor interest.
No facts, no modelling, no proof. Not even any argument that doing this would benefit us as a country, which is surely meant to be the point.
The clamour for the sale of state assets is coming from one source – the people who would make money off it. They reckon they would get our assets at knock-down prices (like they did last time) and then be able to extract greater profits out of them by demanding higher dividends, which would require asset-stripping (just like last time).
The notion of selling part of the asset to ‘free up capital’ is like those dodgy companies that encourage you to take loans out against your house. We would get some cash up front, and then end up paying back far more from the profit streams of our assets.
It’s a scam. We were tricked into selling our assets by lying neoliberal governments back in the 1980s and 1990s. We’re not dumb enough to be fooled again.
*(there’s little content in those 134 pages. most of the pages are half empty, there are even some pencil sketches to take up space – it’s like what you would get if you asked for a 20 page report from a lazy fifth former.)