Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
United Privatisation Organisation
Who organises the privatisation of publicly-owned enterprises and other state assets? Well, in Australia, the Federal Government and the various State Governments. They have successfully flogged off the people's property to an assortment of private corporations, and are even now engaged in disposing of more of the same to yet more private entrepreneurs and corporations. This is a procedure that is being repeated in non-socialist countries all over the world -- and especially of course in former socialist countries, where there is so much more in the way of public assets to dispose of. The World Bank makes it a condition of obtaining loans that countries must undertake "restructuring" that primarily means privatising state enterprises (and reducing government services). Economic "aid" from capitalist countries is also made conditional on opening up state enterprises to private "competition" and then to full privatisation. "All right", I hear you cry, "but we knew all this already." Ah, yes, but did you know that there is yet another way you can organise the privatisation of a country's publicly owned assets? You can let the United Nations do it. Now you probably thought the UN was there to help the nations of the world to co-operate and co-exist without recourse to war? Ha! You my friend are labouring under a sad misapprehension, of which it is my duty to disabuse you. In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the province of Kosovo is occupied by a UN military force (and has been since the conclusion of the NATO war on Yugoslavia of 1999). That this UN force is largely indistinguishable from a NATO force is of course just one of those odd coincidences that pop up seemingly everywhere these days. Under the watchful eye of this NATO/UN force the province of Kosovo has been largely ethnically cleansed of the bulk of its former Serb and Roma (Gypsy) populations. The "Kosovo Liberation Army", that motley grouping of Albanian drug mafia and right-wing Islamic fundamentalists (from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and Saudi Arabia in particular), far from being made a target of George Bush's "war on terrorism", were actually made into the official police force of Kosovo, under UN authority! The consequent flourishing of the drug trade into southern Europe -- and from there the world -- was a marvel to see. Trafficking in women for prostitution (what used to be called the "white slave trade") similarly flourished. Curiously, the Western media has gone very quiet about the Kosovo Albanian mafia. But if organised crime is doing all right in UN/NATO administered Kosovo, the same cannot be said for any other industry. Unemployment is running at 65 per cent and the province's economy is almost entirely dependent on foreign aid. Which brings me back to privatisation. The UN administration in the province, without reference to the government of Yugoslavia (it's a US puppet but you'd think they'd at least make a pretence of consulting it), has set about the process of "attracting investment" that will "help the economy in the middle and long term". How? By selling off the hundreds of state enterprises in the province, what else? Yugoslavia, despite everything, was a socialist country after all, and the state sector of its economy was very strong and varied. The UN, however, intends to change all that. On April 17 the top UN official in Kosovo, one Michael Steiner, presented the province's pro-NATO Prime Minister, Bajram Rexhepi, with a ready-made law (drafted by the UN) for the creation of a "Kosovo Trust Agency". This agency would, according to press reports, "administer the sell-off of state enterprises to private investors". That should help Kosovo's economy get back on its feet, don't you think? Steiner is no fool, mind you. In apparent anticipation of future recriminations when the promised recovery in the province fails to materialise, he warned the Kosovo Government that the Trust Agency "will not produce wonders", even as he handed the draft law over to Prime Minister Rexhepi to implement. Steiner also signalled that there would be more drastic economic changes to come, ominously calling the draft UN law only a "first step" on Kosovo's path to "economic reform". Theoretically, the Kosovo Parliament could reject or significantly alter the draft law, but the idea of Rexhepi's NATO-dependent administration trying to double cross its US master is generally regarded as fanciful in the extreme. Meanwhile, people inside and outside Yugoslavia are asking is it the role of the UN to order and plan the privatisation of (part of) any country's economy? Imperialism obviously wants the UN to become yet another tool at its disposal. I feel the people of the world will have something to say about that, however.