Rivers of gold


Musician, Ex City worker and Occupier, Tom Moriarty, reflects on the implications of government intentions to sell off rivers and reservoirs…


I have to write about this one because this is exactly the kind of thing I fear is the long-term repercussions of the banking crisis and the imbalances in the current economic “arrangement.”   It turns out the government is trying to put the rivers and reservoirs up for sale.   Now that should ring alarm bells immediately.   Imagine who’s going to buy them.   I’m seeing signs next to rivers with JP Morgan on them, or RBS or Goldman Sachs.  Can you imagine the Prudential owning the River Stour?  You can almost imagine the pride in the faces of the Board as they tell people they own the River Avon or the Fleet.  No doubt Lebedev would want to buy the Thames.    One has to ask what bit of the country is not for sale and if everything is for sale and then to what degree does it actually belong to the people anymore.  After all it’s just a question of time which means that fishing, swimming, various pastimes will be at the grace of some ‘charitable’ bank who decides you’re allowed to fish there, or kayak on a Sunday afternoon.


Back to the River “Barclays.”  Two things come to mind and of course the first is, why are they having to sell off water infrastructure?   That’s what rivers is after all, part of the water transport infrastructure.   And of course that brings us back to the banking crisis, the bail out, the doubling of national debt, the blowing up of the deficit etc. etc.  So the crisis the banks caused have forced the sale of national assets to guess who….the banks.     I really would ask you to step back for second and think about what that means and consider to what degree the banks are controlling government.   It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, money talks.   Money really does.   What must the banks have over government?  Is it just party finance or is it actually the threat of abandoning the country or restricting funds to the people.   Don’t think that it doesn’t happen.   I remember once upon a time a technology Chief Executive telling me that if you can imagine it, then one day they’ll do it.   I can’t help believe the same with regards to the goings on in the corridors of power.   I would love to believe that those conversations did not happen, that the Chairman of banks might not sit by the fire with a government official and whisper that certain government action or policy might ‘force our hand’.   But the circumstantial evidence is surely just too strong the deeper you look.   The actions of the government are surely too dictated to be rational, too diluted to be effective, too contrived to be real.   It reminds me of a hostage forced to give a statement to camera in support of their captors gripes.  Oh, the powers that be.   And so it is that the banks get to  have their cake and eat it.


Of course the second thing which is just as disturbing is the thought of banks not just controlling our angling pastimes, it’s much more fundamental than that and you know what I’m going to say.   Yeah, they’re going to be in primary control of the water supply and that is fucking scary.    A few years ago Europe had a spat with Russia and just to make a point Russia turned down the tap on the gas supply, just so we remembered who’s who in that particular relationship.    And so it will be that when the government tells the banking industry that they can’t do this or they can’t do that, they might just, for a day or two, quite literally turn off the tap.   And what does that do for the supposed economic democracy we don’t enjoy.


Let’s say it’s not banks that buy them, one has to ask who else would.   It can’t be the water companies with their regional monopolies already.    The purpose is after all is to try and create some competition in the water provision market.    Of course the water companies are already saying that it will push up prices because of course it always get passed on to the monopolized consumer.   As such then, this initiative to make the market more competitive will have the exact opposite effect in terms of market pricing than it should do.    And let’s face it, with no limits on price increases, it always would.


Reading the article this is actually a case study piece in where we are right now in terms of our economic evolution.  Because the next point that is made is this, “…you continue with s stable, revenue-predictable business which has attracted billions of pounds of investment, or go with a new system based on an untried, abstract economic model.” So says a “water industry executive” …who no doubt won’t be paid his 6-figure bonus if things change.     So what he’s saying is that if there are changed to make the market fairer it will be bad for investors as well as being bad for consumers because they’ll pass on any pain they feel to the customer.   That reads more like a threat than a statement.    That’s what 20 years of running a monopoly does to you.   One thing has always struck me since they were privatized.  How difficult can it be to run a water company!?      So who’s more important, customers or investors?  And there lies the axis of the economic see saw – the people or the money.


The argument goes, of course, that in our pension funds are water company shares, at least there should be and we ultimately benefit from those holdings in our retirement.   Somehow it just doesn’t seem to pan out that way though.  I wonder if it’s possible to do the math between the negative effect of a lifetime of over priced water and the contribution of that to your pension fund.   It does not seem a benevolent cycle.     Somehow one feels that somewhere in the system the gains made by pension are not passed pro rated to the pension fund holders.  (They want to make their huge profits not doubt and there are management fees and massive bonuses to pay.)   It’s as if there are leaks in the system…..


The greater question has to be though at what point does this kind of company become not able to provide water to everyone or at what point do we say that in this developed society water is a human right?    As prices continue to rise we are going to see people increasingly not being able to afford as much water as they used to, who will shower less, and as difficult as it is to say it, yes, drink less.  And suddenly I am thinking of the way we pay for water.   It’s based on the building, not our actual usage.  So if we try and save water, economise on bath times and cups of tea, we won’t save ourselves anything.  They’ve pulled a very fast one there….!   All our savings efforts just get flushed away!


And so it must require a new approach and perhaps we will see some kind of neo nationalization of these industries, not the same as before but definitely a business that is run for the people’s benefit and not just to maximise profits and please shareholders, and not because it is the right to do, it will be the only thing to do.  We must ask the question then what is the company or entity to do that, what kind of hybrid could work?  If it is a hybrid….


For now the prospect of a sell off of our rivers fills me with fear.  I love rivers and apart from the economic nightmare of these ever so natural of natural resources falling in to the ownership of bankers I can’t help feeling a sense of the sordid about it, a kind of river pollution not as yet considered but absolutely as or more toxic and damaging to our lives then a leaking sewer…


The Times, “Water revolution will sell us down the river, suppliers fear” 24 November 2012


25 November 2012


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