06 March 2008

A bullet train through our pockets

Remember when I told you about the cost of the "bullet train" proposed for the Buenos Aires–Rosario route? Many people already felt it was a lot. Enough to rebuild a good part of the national railway grid, remember?

Surprise, surprise: the actual amount of money involved has shot up to four times what I reported! Not only do we have to pay $1.3 billion for this white elephant, we also have to issue Treasury bonds for about $4 billion as a guarantee for the loan that Alstom, the winner of the bid, will have to get from the Société Générale bank. No-one, and I mean no-one, told us about these extra billions up until now — when it's too late to back out. Congress must authorize the spending. (All who believe Congress will have a serious, informed, non-partisan debate about this, raise your hands. How many hands do I count? I thought so.)

And note I say "we" because that's us getting indebted through our government, and that's our money being spent. Indebting a country with much more pressing needs to pay for a railway where a trip will cost twice as much as going by plane, a train that cannot possibly be profitable, a train that will be given for exploitation to the government's Big Business friends and kept running through subsidies — again our money.

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