Water Privatisation no solution to extreme poverty

11 June 2008

Water Privatisation no solution to extreme poverty

In the privatisation of water supply in developing countries, the SP can see no kind of solution to the problem of reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Agreed by almost every country in the world in 2000, the MDGs include a halving of the number of people living in extreme poverty and a halving of those without ready access to a safe water supply, both of which are targeted for 2015. In today's debate on the issue, the SP called on Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders to make more resources and more finance available for cooperation between publicly-owned water suppliers in the West and their counterparts in developing countries.

Ewout Irrgang During the debate, SP Member of Parliament and development spokesman Ewout Irrgang was critical of the emphasis, laid by Western donors and bodies such as the World Bank, on privatisation and on so-called public-private partnerships (PPPs). This, he said, was presented as a purported solution to the problem of halving the number of people not having access to safe drinking water."The minister has made improving water supply in sub-Saharan Africa the principal target of his policy. Correctly so, because that's where as things stand the need is greatest. But we must conclude that private water corporations are not going to provide a solution there, because they will not invest there. In a country such as Ghana we van see precisely where PPPs lead, to a situation in which poor people have their water cut off because they can' pay their bill." The Ghanaan parliament is demanding that the contract with Aqua Vitens, in which the Dutch water company Vitens has interests, is terminated."

Irrgang believes that it is far better to invest in cooperation between publicly-owned water suppliers. "Experience shows that 'public-public' cooperation need give nothing away to public-private cooperation," Ewout said. "It aims to make costs as low as possible, so that drinking water remains affordable to the very poorest. I have therefore called on the minister to make money and resources available to support this, as a counterweight to the already-existing World Bank funds aimed at promoting PPPs and privatisation of the water supply in developing countries."

Next week, Irrgang will ask Parliament to make a declaration on the matter.

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