On the presentation of the profits of the Berlin Water Works, Sahra Wagenknecht, member of the executive of the party THE LEFT, declares:
“Gushing profits thanks to juicy price hikes!“, that might be the formula for the annual result that the Berlin Water Works presented at its press conference. While the prices for water and sewage water disposal in Berlin have risen by more than a fourth in Berlin since 2003, the yearly profits of the Berlin Water Works last year alone could be increased by 80 percent to 177 mln. Euros.
That the Berliners need to reach deeper and deeper into their pockets to pay their water is the result of secret privatisation contracts: That way, the former Senate of Social Democrats and Conservatives at the time of the partial privatisation in the year 1999 guaranteed a luxious profit to the water companies RWE and Veolia. Yet the anger about private enrichment policy and secrecy in the area of services of general interest is growing. Almost 40.000 signatures could be collected in the first stage for the popular petition “Stop secret contracts! We Berliners want our water back!“. Maybe out of fear of suits for compensation, the Berlin Senate has refused to admit the popular petition to the second stage. Yet the justification that was supplied for that – the country of Berlin was legally obligated to keep absolute secrecy on the contents of the contracts and the contract negotiations – only shows that the initiators of the popular petition have hit a nerve with their demands.
It is precisely because privatisations often go along with corruption and graft, precisely because private companies let their profits be guaranteed for decades ahead by the public authorities, precisely because elected representatives are not sufficiently informed or even wilfully dissuaded as to the consequences of privatisation, and precisely because democratic rights of citizens were underminded by secret contracts and the scope for action of politics was cut down for decades ahead, that the demand for unveiling the privatisation contracts is so essential.
Secret treaties in the area of services of general interest are a scandal that must not be accepted! Instead of turning down an important popular petition with reference to secrecy duties, THE LEFT in Berlin should rather commit, together with social movements and trade unions, so that transparency and democratic control are realised in all areas of services of general interest.