Tag Archive for water charges

Time to step up the struggle for water

sv

The water movement, in all its manifestations and sometimes confusion, has been the biggest and most successful working class mobilisation in decades. This is in large part thanks to the thousands of activists all over Ireland. The movement is urban and rural. It has been an education process for everyone involved and opened many eyes to just how rotten the capitalist system and Irish State are. It is vital that momentum isnt lost just as the movement is on the very of victory. It is vital the movement remains on the street and the politics of the movement remains in the grassroots. If we allow, or pass to, elected representatives the political power this movement holds it will be a disaster for both the immediate goal but also the long term need to build on this great political class mobilisation.

Below is the editorial from the March issue of Socialist Voice available online at http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/index.html and is an important read for activists.

It is a matter of urgency for working people once again to mobilise, to get back on the streets to press home our demands for an end to water charges and, most importantly, for a constitutional amendment to enshrine the people’s ownership of water—not state ownership, because the state belongs to the rich and powerful.
Regardless of the negotiations now under way about the formation of a new government, which will only continue the policies of the previous two, we must not allow ourselves to bargain away all our hard work, the early-morning blocking of the installation of water meters, the local and national mass demonstrations.
Water activists urgently need to rally together to impose our agenda on the current political flux, and not allow them to impose their agenda on us. Fianna Fáil say they want to postpone charges for five years and to break up Irish Water; this is only a tactical matter for them in order to squeeze the momentum out of the mass mobilisation.
The establishment is mounting a counter-attack on those opposed to water charges. Its strategy is to play the long game and break the people’s resistance. Although the manner in which this valuable resource is managed is important, it is not the central question we face. What is central is the ownership of our water resources; our demand is therefore for a constitutional amendment. This is the only way to block privatisation. It becomes even more urgent when we realise that the TTIP and CETA, once enacted, could make this impossible.
We have to take advantage of the current political situation and use it to our advantage. Teachtaí Dála have been elected on the promise to end water charges and secure a constitutional amendment. They must be held to account. We cannot allow our struggle to be wasted on tactical manoeuvring for perceived political advantage, nor to be sidetracked by political sectarianism and petty point-scoring.
As the dust from the elections begins to settle, a number of things are becoming much clearer. Certainly the continued growth in the anti-establishment vote is to be welcomed, especially if we add to it the significant numbers of people who did not come out to vote at all because of their disillusionment with the politics presented to them.
All the main electoral parties and blocs, including those that stood on an anti-establishment platform, argued very much within the existing system. They allowed themselves to be corralled within the narrow ideological framework, some of them presenting their alternative economic and social policies with the boast that they had been fully costed by the Department of Finance! This implies that the Department of Finance and the state in general are neutral, above the cut and thrust of politics, above siding with any particular class interests. The reality is that the Department of Finance is the guardian of the interests of the economic system as a whole, that it takes direct orders from Brussels and Berlin.
A big effort now, especially before a new government emerges from the whisperings in Leinster House, can achieve not merely a moratorium on water charges but a major victory, consolidated with a constitutional amendment.

 

 

The political economy of water charges – an EU dimension

The origin of the planned water charges lies in the EU’s Water Framework Directive (2000), which provided for full cost recovery for water use and whose Article 9 states; ‘Member States shall take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services …’ It also required Member States to have in place water-pricing policies by 2010. The Directive was transposed into Irish Law in 2003. The Water Framework Directive, which seeks to commodify water provision through the establishment of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services. The EU took advantage of the ‘bailout’ to make it a condition of the ‘loans’.  This will open the way for the sale of Irish Water either in whole or in part, ostensibly to complete the single market or to promote competition ‘in the interests of the consumer’. This is just one reason why there is such government resistance to a constitutional referendum to permanently retain Irish Water in public  ownership – the other is TTIP.

Both sides in the TTIP negotiations have made clear their intention to use TTIP to get access to what is described as “public monopolies;” that is, public utilities including water. These services would then be vulnerable to greater outsourcing and private tendering for service delivery and eventually, to privatisation. TTIP would open up public procurement contracts to the private sector, meaning that social, environmental or “public good” goals in public procurement would be removed. A private monopoly can fix its price at an unaffordable level, as Bechtel did in Bolivia, leading to a popular uprising; the termination of the contract and replacement of the government.

It would also make the nationalisation (or renationalisation) of services or resources virtually impossible, as incredibly, corporations would be able to sue for loss of future and expected profits. This is facilitated by the inclusion of an (ISDS) Investor – State Dispute Settlement clause in TTIP. TTIP would increase the pressure for the privatisation of ‘services of general interest’, such as water services. Foreign suppliers of services of general interest should not be entitled to claim “forgone profits” through ISDS. This provision, in effect would further legalise neo-liberalism as the economic and social framework in Ireland and the EU.

But even if ISDS is removed from TTIP, the main goal remains; to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labour rights, food safety rules, regulations on the use of toxic chemicals and digital privacy laws. Public water provision is only one of the services under threat from TTIP. Both water charges and TTIP must be defeated!

Frank Keoghan

http://www.tuleftforum.com/water-charges-eu-ttip/