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Global Auction of Public Assets by Dexter Whitfield

Reviewed by Hugo Radice, University of Leeds, UK for Capital & Class


Ten years ago, Dexter Whitfield's Public Services or Corporate Welfare? gave us the first detailed critique of the growing use of private resources to 'finance' public infrastructure projects. With Global Auction, he provides a comprehensive account of just how far and wide these forms of privatisation have now spread. A movement that seemingly began as a technical innovation in project financing now threatens to transfer the design and implementation of infrastructure projects entirely from public to private hands, with taxpayers and service users footing the bill. If this continues, the consequence will be to dramatically restrict the scope of democratic decision-making in this vital part of the economy, while simultaneously redistributing income from the poor to the rich. And as with so many innovations in the history of capitalism, successive UK governments have been the most enthusiastic pioneers and promoters of this process.

Whitfield shows how high levels of public debt, a major argument for 'private' finance, can be tackled by such measures as reducing tax avoidance, sensible use charging and cutting military spending. He then outlines a positive programme of change, based on a return to close and globally coordinated regulation of the financial services sector, the revitalisation of public management, and better techniques of project evaluation. This would require an extensive worldwide campaign by public service users, community and civil society groups and trade unions ... This book is an excellent guide to this largely invisible part of the neoliberal revolution, providing us with the detailed understanding that we so urgently need if we are to combat it effectively."

(Read the full review at Spokesman Books)

Global Auction of Public Assets: Public Sector Alternatives to the Infrastructure Market and Public Private Partnerships by Dexter Whitfield is available in paperback and as an eBook from Spokesman Books.

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