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Water Privatization Fiascos

A New Social Experiment?
The role of multinational corporations in providing water and sanitation services is relatively new. In fact, one could say water "privatization" is a global social experiment. Historically, water has been viewed as a public good, not a market commodity. Over the last 200 years, most water utilities have been publicly owned and managed. And, the vast majority of people around the world receive water and sanitation services from publicly owned and operated facilities. Most countries have only recently begun to consider privatization of their water utilities. Only 5% of the world’s water services are run by private companies. Water and sanitation services have been publicly run because private companies were not interested in owning or managing water utilities. There was little or no profit to be made. But, with the specter of growing freshwater scarcity and the prediction that water will be the oil of the 21st century, major global corporations have been moving into the "water market."

Promises made.
The multinational water corporations, their government allies, the IMF, the World Bank and the regional development banks have claimed that water privatization (or public/private partnerships) is the answer. They claim that bringing the private sector into water and sanitation service provision will ensure access to the more than a billion people worldwide who lack clean and affordable water, and the 2.4 billion who lack sanitation services. The water corporations and their allies argue that the private sector is more efficient, cost-effective and competitive. And, the private sector can bring needed financing.

Privatization Fiascos

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