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Business-Managed Democracy

“Business-managed democracies are those in which the political and cultural arrangements are managed in the interests of business”

Sharon Beder

Business-Managed Government

Public Opposition to Privatisation

protest The business promotion of privatisation is despite widespread public opposition to it around the world. That opposition has grown as communities around the world have experienced the costs of privatisation. From 2003 water privatisation was especially unpopular because of the price increases that inevitably accompanied it and the inability of private companies to make the expected improvements and investments. reference

The job losses and rising prices following or threatened by privatisation have resulted in popular uprisings and mass protests in Argentina, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic. Anti-privatisation movements are growing in many Latin-American countries. An Inter-American Development Bank survey of 17 of these countries found that 63 percent of people thought that privatisation was not beneficial.

In the early 21st century they began voting for left-wing candidates willing to protect the national interest against the World Bank and IMF pro-market formulas.
Lula Da Silva


In the Philippines, a grassroots organisation has formed called Stop Privatization. It claims that state monopolies have been replaced by a few private companies who now dominate basic public services. The public has not benefited, especially the poor and services such as water and electricity “have been put even further out of reach by privatization”.

Source: 'Paraguay - Law to stop water privatization', Friends of the Earth International, 27 July 2007.

Source: 'PPIAF: Stop water privatisation', Friends of the Earth International, 24 May 2007.


In Guatemala, price increases following the sell-off of  national electricity assets to Enron, caused rioting. The president tried to dissolve Congress and declare martial law as a result.


When thousands of people protested against the planned privatisations and a number of students were killed and injured in Papua New Guinea, Australian foreign minister  at the time, Alexander Downer, expressed concern that PNG might give in to the protests and abandon the program of “economic reform” and indicated that Australia might withdraw aid if the Morauta government were toppled.


In the UK, where the water privatisation experiement is 17 years old, 56% of people want to go back to public ownership. It should be noted that the majority of the public was opposed to water privatisation even before it was introduced. In the Netherlands and Uruguay water privatisation is so unpopular that it has been made illegal.

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Examples of Opposition to Water Privatisation, 1994-2002

Year Country City Event
1994 Poland Lodz Privatisation proposals rejected
1995 Hungary Debrecen Privatisation proposals rejected
1995 Sweden Malmo Privatisation proposals rejected
1996 Argentina Tucuman Termination of privatisation
1996 USA Washington DC Privatisation proposals rejected
1998 Germany Munich Privatisation proposals rejected
1999 Brazil Rio Privatisation proposals rejected
1999 Canada Montreal Privatisation proposals rejected
1999 Panama national Privatisation proposals rejected
1999 Trinidad national Termination of privatisation
2000 Bolivia Cochabamba Termination of privatisation
2000 Germany Potsdam Termination of privatisation
2000 Mauritius national Privatisation proposals rejected
2000 USA Birmingham Termination of privatisation
2000 Malaysia   Renationalisation of sewerage
2001 Argentina BA Province Termination of privatisation
2001 France Grenoble Termination of privatisation
2001 Central African Republic Bangui SAUR contract terminated
2002 Brazil National Continuing campaign
2002 Ghana Accra Continuing campaign
2002 Indonesia Jakarta Continuing campaign
2002 Paraguay All Privatisation proposals rejected
2002 Poland Poznan Privatisation proposals rejected
2002 S Africa national Continuing campaign
2002 Argentina Buenos Aires Enron’s concession remunicipalised
2004 Colombia Bogota Suez wastewater contract terminated
2005 Mali Bamako SAUR’s contract terminated
2005 Tanzania Dar-es-Salaam Biwater contract terminated
2005 Belize   Termination of privatisation
2006 Uruguay Urugua Termination of contract
2006 Argentina Buenos Aires Suez’s concession renationalised
2006 Chile Calama Biwater contract terminated
2007 Bolivia La Paz/El Alto Termination of privatization
2008 France Paris Remunicipalisation announced
2009 Hungary Pecs Attempted termination from Suez
2009 Malaysia all states Water assets to be renationalised
Source: David Hall and Emmanuele Lobina, 'Water Privatisation', London, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), April 2008, p. 9 and David Hall, Emmanuele Lobina, and Violeta Corral, ‘Replacing failed private water contracts‘, London, Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), January 2010, pp. 5-7. (doc)
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