OVER 400 people gathered in London last weekend for a conference organised by War on Want on 'Privatisation, Power and Poverty'. At the opening session author Susan George said that in addition to the 'three Ps' of the conference title, we needed to add another one-profits.
She said that neo-liberal policies were under increasing assault by campaigners and writers but that they were still being pushed harder than ever. 'Private businesses are salivating at getting their hands on the health market, worth $3,000 billion globally, and the education market, worth $2,500 billion,' she said. 'We need alliances to force governments to change their policies. There is a coming together of people who believe in democracy and do not accept the model of capitalism which excludes everything beyond the roles of producers and consumers.'
Trevor Ngwane from South Africa's Anti-Privatisation Forum spoke about the bitter feelings among millions about the lack of change over the last decade since the end of apartheid.
The final session saw a lively debate with Junaid Ahmed, the lead economist for the World Bank. He tried to persuade the audience that the bank had changed and was now centred on improving accountability without giving any favours to private over public.
But British activists and speakers from Sri Lanka and Zambia railed against the effects of the bank's policies and pointed out that it was still demanding privatisation, welfare cuts and curbs on workers' living standards.