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AltAusterity Digest #31 January 18-24, 2018

This week in Austerity News:

Jan 26, 2018

After months of speculation, Puerto Rico has announced that it will be privatizing its power utility. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, known for her criticisms of the Trump administration, has criticized the move. Cruz alluded to a disaster capitalist motive following the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma, claiming there was a “clear” strategy to “create chaos at a time when citizens are in need.” According to the most recent US Department of Energy report, four months after Maria some 36% of the power utilities customers are still without power.

Scotland has established a Commission on Social Security, which will act as an independent body with the express intention of “future-proofing” against austerity measures that will severely impact vulnerable groups. As powers over social security are being transferred from London to Edinburgh, the Scottish government has taken the opportunity to address concerns raised by anti-poverty groups. Legislative amendments are also being pursued to prevent the use of private contractors in the new welfare system.

 The Liberal government announced Wednesday that they will not be moving forward with efforts to reform Canada Post. Due to analysts’ projections that this will create a funding shortfall for the Crown corporation, the government is planning to install a new management team tasked with cutting costs and increasing revenues. While improving labour-management relations at Canada Post has been identified as a priority for the new management board, there will certainly be tensions between their mandate to cut costs, and the appeals of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

In a piece for Jacobin, Jacky Davis explores how years of austerity and marketization have left Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) at a breaking point. Despite having very little support from the electorate, successive governments since 2000 have privatized the health service mainly through private-public partnerships. The neoliberal idea that the private sector would deliver healthcare more efficiently than the public sector has been shown wanting, as the state has had to step in numerous times to bail out failing private companies. As Davis points out, this push for privatization has been partially self-imposed as funding has been consistently cut since the start of austerity in 2010. 

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