Private sector seeks to expand the reach of P3 law with US support
The Salvadoran right-wing private sector, with the support of U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, has unveiled a series of reforms to the recently-approved Public-Private Partnership (P3) law that would expand the reaches of this privatizing legislation and hand over its control to private business. On July 30th, the National Council for Growth, a body born out of a U.S.-El Salvador bilateral economic development agreement, the Partnership For Growth, held a joint press conference with Ambassador Aponte to present their proposed reforms for review to legislators and political party representatives. Aponte also noted the smooth progress of the new Millennium Challenge coastal development project in El Salvador, a $400 million-dollar aid bundle which she had previously declared under threat if El Salvador did not pass the P3 law. The Ambassador’s presence highlights critical U.S. economic interest in this legislation, given that the P3 law opens up public projects to control, and ultimately, profit, by foreign and transnational corporations. The first version of the law introduced to the Legislative Assembly was much broader in reach and stricter in its implementation. However, the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party successfully modified some of its key provisions, making P3s optional rather than obligatory and excluding health, education, water, and prison management from its reach. In response, the Council for Growth hopes to reinsert water as a sector open to P3s, specifically waste water treatment and purification. The reforms also reinstate the big business-tied Agency for the Promotion of Investment and Exports (PROESA) as the overseeing body for the P3s, rather than creating a new supervising board appointed by the President and the Supreme Court. PROESA , a government agency that assists exporters and foreign investment, was founded by Ana Vilma de Escóbar, former vice-president from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, and currently has strong ties with Chief of Staff Alexander Segovia, a supporter of foreign investment and business. Finally, the reforms aim to reduce the amount of time the Legislative Assembly has to consider a P3 proposal, allowing proposals to be rushed through without proper review. ¨Make no mistake, this is a move towards privatization,¨ states Wilfredo Berríos of the Salvadoran Union Front (FSS). ¨When else has the private sector ever been interested in our waste if it wasn´t to make a profit off of it?¨ The P3 Law, in conjunction with the International Services Law and the reforms to the Free Trade Zones Law passed earlier this year, would bring disastrous consequences for workers in El Salvador. These policies are designed to benefit big business, both national and foreign, while giving little back to the Salvadoran people. They favor larger corporations as shareholders in large construction projects and would encourage companies to replace an older, preexisting public sector workforce with younger, more easily exploitable private sector workers. The proposed P3 reforms would only speed up this process, and expand its reach to include necessary social services such as water. As of this writing, the reforms have not yet been submitted to the Legislative Assembly for approval, where they would require only a simple majority of 43 votes to be voted into law.