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Opinion piece - APEC
Rejected "City Scene Opinion Piece" , 23 August 1999
Auckland residents will be footing much of the bill for the APEC leaders' forum through their taxes and rates. Local Government New Zealand advocates that councils take seriously the APEC economic agenda by contracting out and encouraging private investment.
However, there is a compelling case against the APEC agenda of direct relevance to those of us who believe local government should continue to have a hands-on role in the provision of essential services such as water, power and waste disposal.
Opponents of the Metrowater LATE fear that its commercialised profit-driven structure will lead to privatisation. With reason - the Business Round Table is pushing for an end to "political control" of the water supply. Papakura's franchise arrangement with United Water has stimulated keen interest from the 4-5 biggest transnational water companies seeking potential opportunities for significant profits in New Zealand. Auckland's indomitable "Water Pressure" group has its parallels in Europe where campaigners also oppose high user pays charging. In England ten regional companies are reaping substantial shareholder dividends while poor people risk disease by limiting their water use. Ireland's campaign recently scored a victory after direct actions, including patrols to prevent disconnections.
These international similarities are no coincidence . APEC members operating through institutions such as the World Trade Organisation - now chaired by Mike Moore- are driving for world-wide free trade and investment by 2020.
"APEC means business" say its supporters. When the foreign leaders are here they will not even represent countries, just "economies". However, APEC is not a trading bloc with formal rules - it operates through regular secret meetings of foreign ministers and officials. The leaders' meeting that will paralyse Auckland is really a hugely expensive media side-show.
The vision of huge businesses operating in a borderless world, without regulations and restrictions, is not for the faint-hearted. The transnational corporations have consolidated their wealth and influence - some 750 global corporations now dominate the world economy and a third of world trade takes place within branches of the same corporation. The price for developing countries has been a breakdown of traditional production and agricultural systems and a descent into deepest poverty and historic levels of joblessness.
New Zealand also has been transformed by a growing gap between rich and poor, and younger people cannot remember when we had a thriving clothing industry or when the term "welfare state" had a proud ring.
One bright spot - Auckland City has declared its support for the rights of those of us who will be taking part in peaceful protest. (Phone: 849-3890)
Councillor - Balmoral Ward- Auckland City