British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is launching a massive $25.3 billion sell-off of Britain's assets, ranging from student loans to the Chunnel linking England and France, in order to reduce record deficits and maintain public expenditures. As the British election draws nearer, the Labor Party is attempting to burnish its credentials for fiscal responsibility by privatizing infrastructure, energy companies, and even a sports betting company. Several political figures last night called the plans the biggest privatizations in over 20 years.
With the real estate market depressed—and to avoid accusations of a "fire sale"—Brown will spread sales over two years, and is refusing to sell any land until markets improve. Yet Labor has struggled in the past to get peskier assets off the public books. It has been stuck with its share in the state gambling company Tote for years despite promising to sell it off in 2001. In 2008 the government nearly sold it, but pulled back at the last minutes after deciding the market was too weak.