Essential services are defined as the services, the interruption of which would jeopardize the life, health or personal safety of an individual or a community. Some examples of essential services in the modern world include a regular supply of running water, gas for cooking, essential medicines etc. A lot of centralized work too, such as the police force, fire department or prisons etc can also be termed as essential services, albeit for the community and not for the individual.
In most countries around the world, these services are controlled by the government. Taxpayers’ money is used to fund this public benefit. As such the citizens are used to getting a lot of subsidies which makes sure that both the rich and the poor get a shot at a decent life. This is where the problem of privatization creeps up.
First of all, no matter how much one criticizes the government of being kleptocratic and the public system of being inept, one thing cannot be denied, that some functions and services are best suited in the hands of the government than in the hands of greedy private players.
For example, without the luxury of having taxpayers’ money at their expense, a private company would raise the prices of any item to an unreasonable level. Using this fact as a leverage, they could lie that the services are costing even more, and charge a further premium that will go into their pockets. At the same time, such a large operation, country wide or state wide, might not be as efficient for them as it would be for a public entity since private firms don’t have offices and distribution points in less urban areas. Comparatively, a government company could use any unclaimed land or property temporarily to provide solutions.
Another major reason to avoid privatization is the promotion of wrongdoings in anticipation of profits. Take healthcare for example. By constitution, people in India are entitled to medical checkups and medicines at a highly subsidized rates, although only at government hospitals. A lot of the infrastructure of said hospitals is running because of contracts issued to private suppliers. As such, when there was an oxygen shortage in a hospital in Gorakhpur which led to the death of dozens of kids, the supplier simply refused delivery in absence of prompt payment. The chief doctor in charge of oxygen purchases used to steal oxygen for his own private clinic. Do you see a pattern here? A private player is motivated by profit and profit only, he does not care even if people die because of his actions.
A more empirical example would be the privatization would be the increase of privatization in the US military and the increase in the number of wars the US has been involved in. Frankly, I don’t think any citizen living in the US, eating away happily, enjoying his life should be worried about what’s happening half way across the globe. Yet, these private firms push for military campaigns much far away, which frankly was unnecessary.
One must not forget that greed is an inherent human trait. There is nothing wrong in establishing a company, trying to profit off of other people, try and get ahead in the race. In a lot of sectors, the electronics sector is a prime example, the presence of private firms ensures a healthy competition and breeds innovation, that’s a big upside of having greed, yet the same thing applied to essential services is just not right, since here, instead of playing with products, one might be playing with people’s lives. I can live without the iPhone, but I cannot live without water.