National Monetisation Pipeline: The Content and its Intent
IN 2021-22 budget speech, union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) for monetising the operating public infrastructural assets in India. These assets were built in the name of public purpose on huge acquired lands by direct State intervention. Through NMP, Indian State is going to hand over its monopoly rights over highly developed landed properties with long continuous corridors (26,700 kms of national highways, 8,154 kms of GAIL pipeline, 28,608 ckt kms of Powergrid, 3,930 kms of petroleum and product pipelines, 2,141 kms of railway track, 2.86 lakh kms of optical fibre, 31 projects in nine major ports, 81.9 lakh tonnes of storage capacity of water housing etc) to private capitalists and financial firms, in the name of leasing-out.
On April 12, 2022, the central government held a review meeting on NMP that guaranteed the transactions worth of an estimated Rs 96,000 crore in FY 2021-22 under this pipeline project surpassing the target of Rs 88,000 crore. Around 390 kms of highways have been monetised at a worth of Rs 23,000 crore, monetised assets from power sector garnered Rs 9,500 crore, 22 monetised coal blocks generated Rs 40,000 crore, while 31 mining blocks of minerals fetched Rs 18,700 crore.
In 2019-20, the Government of India targeted Rs 90,000 crore disinvestment, but achieved Rs 50,294 crore (55.88 per cent), in 2020-21 it targeted Rs 2,10,000 crore disinvestment, and achieved only Rs 32,742 crore (15.59 per cent), in 2021-22 it targeted Rs 1,75,000 crore and achieved mere Rs 9,291 crore (5.31 per cent). The scenario is diagonally opposite in the case of NMP. Question arises, who are the participants and why they are in hurry?
Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTPP) are the two major investors along with Capital Group, Utilico Emerging Markets Trust, Fidelity Investments, Matthews Asia, SBI Mutual Fund and HDFC Mutual Fund. These foreign investment companies have a gigantic share in infrastructural assets throughout the globe. And investing in infrastructural assets has become the most risk-free option with annual rate of return crossing 75 per cent in many cases.
DISTINCTIVENESS OF NMP
But where does NMP stand distinct from the earlier disinvestment/ privatisation policies? Why is it so lucrative to the financial firms?
Landed property is the exclusive monopoly right of someone over a definite portion of the globe, to the exclusion of the others. At the nascent stage of capitalism, lands were in the hands of feudal landlords. Rent was the sum of money paid by the capitalists to the land owners, fixed by contract, for the right to invest his capital in the production. Exercising his monopoly right, the landowner claimed a share of produced surplus value as rent.
As the production became more and more socialised, the rent ceased to be determined by the action of the recipient, but by the independent development of socialisation of labour. The social production process evolved, market expanded, and demand over the general products of grounded capital increased, increasing the demand of the land. As the social surplus increased, the landed property acquired the capacity of capturing an ever-increasing portion of this surplus by means of its monopoly. Today, in the present case of NMP, it extracts surplus from all spheres of production related to land.
Now, if this land has any unique quality that advantages the owner with a lower cost of production than the social average, then it ensures surplus profit for the user. And hence it empowers the modern capitalist landowners to gobble an extra share of surplus from all other land-related productions.
All of the assets, to be monetised under NMP, are built upon unique contiguous land stretches. The monopoly-right holders of these assets are free to claim a share of surplus from the entire products/ services dependent upon these. Any product or service, upon which an Indian citizen is indispensably dependent cannot bypass the roadways, railways, electricity or fuel. And here lies the naked exceptionality of the ruling classes in formulating the NMP. This is a paradigm shift in the policy of the disinvestment process hitherto taken up by the successive governments. This is the manifestation of the desperation of the ruling classes to change the policy to come – out of the ever deepening crisis capitalism has entered; the crisis that has become a systemic one.
The indicators of the systemic crisis are coming into prominence day by day. Global GDP growth continuously declined from 5.4 per cent in 2009 to 2.8 per cent in 2019, before the pandemic struck. The lockdowns had contracted the global economy to minus 4.4 per cent in 2020. Global Debt-to-GDP ratio, which touched its earlier historic peak during Second World War at 150 per cent, has surpassed 250 per cent in recent years.
This global crisis has created great impact on Indian economy. 23 per cent youth of urban India was unemployed in 2021. Around 20 crore additional Indian people have fallen into poverty in 2021. The consumer spending index went through a 10.79 per cent decline from 2019. India is now ranking 101 out of 116 countries in Global Hunger Index. India’s Consolidated Fiscal Balance recorded a deficit equal to 6.0 per cent of its Nominal GDP in December 2020, highest after 2008. Production, market, income and hence rate of profit for smaller capitals through appropriation, everything is squeezing, depicting vulnerability, criticality and suffering within the system.
But in contrast to this economic reality, the corporate profit share, set at a hierarchical monopoly profit rate, hit the 10-year peak of 2.63 per cent of GDP in 2021. Today top 10 per cent population is holding 77 per cent of the total national wealth. Markedly an unprecedented course of accumulation through centralisation and expropriation is taking place. It has taken the route of direct loot and plunder of sovereign economy, public wealth and productive assets.
All the way, Indian capitalism like its global counterpart is plunging into ever deepening crisis and trying to maneuver newer policies to temporarily restrain further crash by more and more accumulation of wealth in fewer hands.
In these circumstances, NMP is the most deliberate attempt of Indian ruling class to find an escape avenue from the crisis. The obvious task before Indian working class is to unearth and analyse this ploy with its multifacet spearheads, and resist it to transform the crisis into a new dawn.
THE VALUATION PROBLEM
Established by law, the value of these assets had never been evaluated in competitive market. Historically these assets had built the backbone of Indian industrial bourgeoisie and had a significant impact in economic and social empowerment of the people. Now the Modi government is handing over all these strategic and core infrastructural assets in no value to their crony corporate masters for boundless wealth accumulation.
Each and every services and commodities we use, are dependent upon these infrastructural assets. True that commodification and imposition of charges over the services provided by theses assets were legitimised by forming some regulatory bodies. But the perspective was to provide the services at controlled prices regulated by sovereign welfare state.
NMP is the paradigm shift from this perspective, enabling private capital to extract revenues from these assets without making any capital expenditure whatsoever. The desperation of this government guarantees that the regulatory authorities will be bent down to increase service charges and hence affecting the prices of all the commodities. A gross price hike, more oppression on general people and further accumulation of wealth through expropriation in the hands of a few is the crux of this newly adopted policy.
The government has planned to collect the revenues of next 30-35 years at once in hand through the NMP. Certainly, the whole process will deprive the coming governments of next 35 years to realise the revenues from its assets. The lessee will extract as much as possible revenue without considering the future health or financial viability of the assets. The parental organisation will get back nothing but a destitute liability. Perpetual revenue and asset crisis is obvious in the coming days.
On the other hand, by leasing out these assets to private capitalists and by implementing the anti-labour codes, the scope and security of the jobs will shrink permanently. All of the achieved rights and benefits of the workmen working in these institutions will be at stake.
NMP is the result of the crisis of capital; the crisis which is structural in nature and which has become a systemic one. Lenin taught us about finance capital’s parasitic rent seeking nature in parallel context in his historic pamphlet “Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism”: The monopoly of the banks merges here with the monopoly of ground-rent and with monopoly of the means of communication… A monopoly, once it is formed and controls thousands of millions, inevitably penetrates into every sphere of public life, regardless of the form of government...” It has become most apparent today by the investment of gigantic financial firms from all over the world in this project.
NMP is a disastrous ruling class conspiracy to hand over unique contiguous landed infrastructural assets with the non-competitive monopoly rights to the private cronies in no value, vandalising the remnant of welfare state and thus creating a non-retrievable financial crisis (for the entire economy) by enhancing further price rise and reducing the scope of the revenue collection in coming years. It will destroy the chance of new employment and security of jobs in public sectors. Everything is to ensure more accumulation by levying rent along with all sort of horizontal and vertical centralisation of capital.
To materialise the dream of transcendence to an exploitation free society, the task before Indian working class is to block all the desperate heinous attempts of capital and to push it in its own dug grave; in tune with the Party Congress’s call: this anti-national design of loot on national assets shall not pass.