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.
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?