Privatisation of public services opposed

Rights campaigners yesterday opposed privatisation of education and healthcare services, saying that privatisation will take these facilities beyond the reach of majority of the population, including the poor.

Instead of privatisation, they demanded an increase in allocation for ensuring education, health, water and electricity for all.

These areas – food, education and health – offer scope to make more money, they said.

“You will not buy a car everyday, but buy food and seek other basic services,” said Wilfred Dcosta, of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) at a discussion on privatisation of public services and entitlement, focusing on Bangladesh.

Discussants also criticised the prescriptions of some international lenders such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for privatisation of public services and urged the government to shun such conditionality during receiving loans or aid.

The event was organised at the Teacher-Student Centre at Dhaka University (DU) marking the five-day South Asia Social Forum (SASF) 2011.

SASF General Council and DU jointly organised the meet where representatives of South Asian civil society and rights groups gathered to explore alternative ways of development through people’s participation and resource sharing.

The forum takes place at a time when a vast portion of the population in South Asia suffers from poverty despite the region’s steady economic growth. The region is the home to the highest number of poor people in the world.

“It is a shame that poor people have to pay for education, health and other services,” said Dcosta, also opposing the government’s bid to initiate public-private partnership projects.

Noting Bangladesh, Abu

Ala Mahmudul Hasan of Sushasoner Jonny Procharavizan (Supro), a campaign for good governance, said government allocation for education, health and agriculture as percentage of total allocation has declined although there is emphasis on the government role in the constitution to ensure these services for people.

“Our government is increasingly neglecting essential services that help the poor,” he said, also blaming the international lending agencies for their prescriptions in favour of privatisation.

Citing electricity, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of Equity BD, said privatisation of basic public services has already begun in Bangladesh.

Farooq Tariq of Labour Party of Pakistan said rich politicians say privatisation will create new jobs and bring quality to services.

“It is a total lie that we perceived following the course of privatisation,” he said, citing experience of privatisation in Pakistan.

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt & Development, and Mahbubur Rahman, a member of the standing committee of main opposition BNP, also spoke, while Abdul Awal of Supro moderated the discussion.

Published in the Daily Star

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