I managed to get something of a response from the Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser to my critique of the case for privatisation put forward by the government. Fraser says
The global financial crisis has ripped a $15 billion hole in the state budget. There is no evidence to suggest the state is about to see that hole repaired despite the marginal turnaround in the economy.
“The fact is, Queensland will be better off.
“The myth is that John Quiggin represents the view of mainstream economists.
“The Government is not undertaking this process for the fun of it.”
A couple of responses.
First, the sale of $15 billion of assets does not in any way resolve a $15 billion shortfall in income (the “hole” in Fraser’s statement). The sale value of $15 billion (assuming it’s realised) represents the private sector valuation of the earnings from the assets. Perhaps (though this hasn’t been shown) the value in continued public ownership is less than $15 billion, but it can’t be much less. The coincidence between the two numbers is, intentionally or otherwise, deceptive.
Second, if Fraser is right, it ought to be easy to find mainstream economists to agree that his comparison between last years dividends to general government and the $1.8 billion interest saved (mostly by the GOCs) themselves if the assets are sold and $12 billion of investment is foregone. Any takers?
Finally, it’s worth asking why the government is doing this. My guess is that they place much more weight than they should on the AAA rating, and that Treasury is still pursuing the ideological goals of the 1980s and 1990s.