I was most impressed with a journalist’s summation on France 2 of the proposal by Président Macron’s government to sell Paris’s airports. They are currently owned by just a shade more than 50% by the state..
The Prime Minister has said it is not part of the government’s purpose to extract dividends from infrastructure. Though without offering further explanation.
On the grounds that the airport might be completely privatised, people seem to be worried that security would be based not on the State but on market forces. To Brits this must seem to be something of a premonition. I imagine the French, too, have got to know the wonderful successes that are Serco and G4S….. Still, the French are always particularly security conscious. (The same programme features a suite where rape victims are supposed to feel more at ease – they show it has at least two policemen guarding it with sub machine guns, which to me is the contrary of feeling secure! I’m reminded, rather ironically, of a frighteningly clear-seeing yet still delightfully nonchalant cartoonist at ‘Charlie Hebdo‘ who was not present on that fateful day when most of his colleagues were gunned down. There was a knock at the door soon after and when the caller offered Police protection he declined, saying that it hadn’t done his colleagues much good had it? I’m rather glad I wasn’t the one knocking…) Anyway, in spite of concerns, there is no reason why state Police and troops cannot patrol a private airport.
The Prime Minister was reported as considering that the state is not required to be rent seeking (implying -perhaps accidentally – that private ownership was) but he actually said thet it is not the role of the state to be obliged to receive dividends instead of investing! So given that, unfortunately, France doesn’t really have its own currency, a sale could be seen as a way of raising investment monies.
The journalist continues: the airport is “une entreprise rentable” (which needs no translation) and shares earn 4% a year. Why sell them? Why not preserve them for the benefit of the French taxpayers (and remember as France is in the Euro, France has for the moment at least, to tax and spend). Paris airports, he adds, are also in effect a natural monopoly. He goes on to compare it with the privatisation of the auto-routes where prices increase on a regular basis and the taxpayer has lost out on a profitable income.
His conclusion is that the sale is because France wants to reduce its debt, in accordance with the European Central Bank’s ‘stability pact’. France pays just 0.9% on the debt, yet is selling something which gives them a return of 4%!
Would that the BBC could be as clear-sighted and incisive.
I’d give that journalist the légion d’honneur, but I doubt Président Macron will be as impressed…