By Krishna Jha
Monetisation, a recent step by the government, aims at the dilution of public sector units. Each of the units is on sale. In last seven decades, these industrial units were founded to develop the country’s infrastructure, to cater to the basic needs to evolve economy. With public money, the basics of industrial development were built. The tax money of the vast masses was spent to build roads, improve power sector, energy sector, health services, education, airports, railways, and many such initiatives.
The selling of these basics means fragmentation of the economy itself. It does not stop there. With each sale, the government intends to usurp the entire revenue also. The assets, built up in decades, with public contributions of the hard earned money, are transformed into cash. Each of them is sold to private buyers, at prices that do not match, nor is there any guarantee for further investment. Its present and future, both have been privatised, in the name of giving them on lease, for 30 to 50 years.
The government claims that the units would be under its rule for the entire lease period, but the money that is exchanged between the two does not leave any scope for such optimism. The process is named monetisation. In scientific terms, it is the emerging supremacy of finance capital. Government is selling the infrastructure and plans to raise six lakh crore in coming four years. The sectors that face the bullet are airports, railways, roads, power, gas pipeline, mining and telecom, banks, each one imperative for building the industrial basics of economy.
The resources are the public money, collected in taxes during last seven decades. Now the private players have got them on lease spread over decades. It is obvious that the units would be totally depreciated to zero value at the end. As the government is leasing out the units, it is also taking away the entire bulk of rental value now itself. In factit is the intended appropriation of all the future money that is to be earned by the assets. It is also not surprising that the terms of return of the money invested, or the compensation to the tax payer is still kept illusive.
Illusive is also any strategy to be evolved for the all out progress of the country, where economy plays a major role. Nation building is missing from the agenda, so is the creation of infrastructure. Public sector units were taken up to facilitate the process. To fight against unemployment, to provide inputs for basic development, like energy, power, mining, transport were made possible basically because there were the public sector units. The development of science and technology, and to build the heavy industries could be facilitated only because there were the public sector units.
But with the privatisation spree, the evolution of science and technology has also been facing the guillotine. The buck does not stop here. It still has to go through generations, as the government itself has appropriated even the future earnings that are yet to come. There is the ominous graveyard silence so far as clarity is concerned. The total absence of any explanation about the massive monetisation of public assets makes it even more difficult to get the answer to the most plaguing issue, that is how the government plansto compensate subsequent generations if it appropriates all their future earnings today?
So far as implementation is concerned, the financialised capital keeps moving away from production. It is aimed at speculation and stock market, typical for financialisation of capital. It influences the quality of the product too. The reality is every asset in the country is up for sale. The public assets are transferred to a separate unit that are to be financed by various trusts almost like the mutual funds with global and local funds shares.
There are certain issues with the global funds that do not want any imposition from the public sector management, and thus getting into conflicts. For fossil fuel like coal mines and hydro thermal generation plants, there hardly would be long term investors. But this is also a fact that irrespective of social rejection or ecological adversities, global finance would not hesitate to take up projects that would help financialisation of capital.
In a situation when the split between investment and financialisation is getting deeper as the power begins shifting through monetisation, there could be only few corporate groups with access to bank loans, to bid for the sell out of airports, coal mines, power generation projects with long term lease. This may lead to concentration of wealth in few hands. The role of government in this lease period could be only negligible.
Thus the public sector assets could get concentrated in few hands that could even monopolise them at the end. With role of the government getting feeble, the question of its stability too arises. There must not arise a situation when the future governments could take advantage from precedence. Hence in the struggle to reign in the devastating process, of which selling out is only the beginning, there has to be a consensus from all parties, including opposition and the trade unions to forge unity. In fact there is no alternative to it. (IPA Service)