Typical Guardian

In Greece last week, I met workers at the Piraeus port authority. They had already seen one of their terminals go to the Chinese and hundreds of staff lose their jobs. Now they worried about them coming for another bite – and more unemployment. Privatisation raised cash upfront, admitted port employee Anastasis Fzantzeskaki, but it also sacrificed income. And with it, the young lost the chance of a career. \”Our parents gave us a better society,\” she said. \”We\’re giving our children nothing.\”

A local trade unionist drove me to the crest of a hill overlooking the Chinese-run facility – lit-up, smart and bustling, it made a sharp contrast from the other industry nearby, which the government had run into decline. There, in Athens, were two models of capitalism side by side: one state-led, flush with hard currency and looking to invest; the other straining under the competition of the free market and now on the auction block.

Eh? What?

One part of the port is directly state owned. Greek Government, state owned.

The other part of the port is COSCO owned, a Chinese state owned company.

These don\’t sound like two different models of capitalism to me. They sound like the same model really.

But the one described as \”state-led\” is the one described as shiny, new and raring to go, the one that\’s a fuck up, even though state owned, is described as \”straining under the competition of the free market\”.

A tad of bias there in the descriptions, no?

13 thoughts on “Typical Guardian”

  1. Bit racist, too. I thought the Guardian were fans of immigration: they typically have not taken kindly to those who complain that x nationals are ‘coming over here and taking all our jobs’. It’s different, clearly, when it’s Chinese people going over there and taking all their jobs.

  2. This one caught my eye, too. Deeply stupid, in the sense of prejudiced and blind.

    Two ports, one works, one doesn’t. Why? just a guess, but I’ll bet the Chinese one is run for profit, driving efficency, cutting costs, and managing employees for performance. on a medium term plan, this justifies investment.

    I’ll bet the greek one is run at a loss, has been for yonks, is overstaffed with overpaid and underemployed people who retire too early, is managed by union- and party-connected stooges, and hasn’t had a bean to invest in years, and doesn’t care.

    One is state-owned market capitalism, the other is state-owned socialism. the difference? Not as reported.

    Mark – you what?

  3. It is right though, perhaps unwittingly. Both facilities are state owned but the Chinese are allowed to subsidise their port as much as they like whereas the Greeks have to abide by the eu state aid laws to avoid distorting competition. It may of course be that cosco is just much more efficient at running ports than the Greek govt but that can’t be assumed without knowing the financials. They could be just waiting to put the other port out of business and spending accordingly (a tactic needless to say unavailable to an eu state enterprise). Thing to do would be for Greeks to sell to someone willing to battle the Chinese and with the resources to do so.

  4. “state-owned market capitalism”

    Oxymoron of the day, there. If it’s state owned it’s not “market” and it’s not “capitalism”.

  5. If it is state-owned, behaves as a competitor in a competitive market, and has long-term profitability and return to shareholders (ok, the one shareholder) as its motive/mission, what would you call it?

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Botzarelli – “Both facilities are state owned but the Chinese are allowed to subsidise their port as much as they like whereas the Greeks have to abide by the eu state aid laws to avoid distorting competition.”

    Except the Chinese don’t. Chinese enterprises are required to meet State obligations. Basically they have to pay the central government whatever quota of revenue they have been set by the central government. It is a return to the Imperial era where every province is given a tax quota. They get to keep what is left over – which is why Chinese Tax Office buildings are always the most expensive in any town – but they have to make their upward payment. Cosco is no different than any other State enterprise. Just like every other State-owned business, or factory, or prison or even high school.

    “It may of course be that cosco is just much more efficient at running ports than the Greek govt but that can’t be assumed without knowing the financials.”

    Knowing a bit about Western ports and their Unions, it is entirely reasonable to assume so without knowing a damn thing about the financials.

  7. “If it is state-owned, behaves as a competitor in a competitive market, and has long-term profitability and return to shareholders (ok, the one shareholder) as its motive/mission, what would you call it?”

    Er, the State.

  8. Mmm. No difference at all worth mentioning, then? No two or ten ways the state can do things, just “the state”? Bit limited. especially when you have this example right in front of you of two state-owned enterprises in totally different condition and all you can say is they’re both “the state”. Won’t get you far. Even chakrawatsit acknowledged there was a difference, though he was wrong about what – that’s a street ahead of you. It’s like saying good private and bad private are both the same because they’re both private.

  9. Dan: there’s a difference between objecting to foreign people coming in and foreign money coming in (objecting to either is daft in my book, but they’re not the same thing). As far as I can see, this piece objects to the money but not the people.

    Ian: Where exactly do you plan to draw this line? What about a plc like France Telecom or BP before the mid-1980s, where the company is expressly run for profit, but a majority of the shares are owned by the government? Does that magically become Private Enterprise when the government sells down to 49.9%? What if the government owns 40%? 10%? One share?

  10. This sounds like a typical journalist – trying to justify treating his Greek holiday as a tax-deductible expense.

    What’s the betting he was at the port to take a boat out to one of the islands?

  11. john b: I wasn’t being entirely serious about the racism – I was using that as a cipher for general incoherence (maybe not very successfully).

  12. Botzarelli:“It may of course be that cosco is just much more efficient at running ports than the Greek govt …”

    As SMFS points out, that’s pretty much a given.

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