The Guardian

The Guardian April 24, 2002


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.

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