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May / June 2003

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OPINION - Confusing Cause and Effect


Founder : Len Abrams
Water Policy International


  Private-Public Partnership Page  

PPP In Water & Sanitation Projects


Internationally there is heated debate about the role of private companies in the provision of water and sanitation services. The concept of PPP has come to symbolise the dominance of the private sector. As has been discussed on previous pages there are many diferent forms of PPP, some placing more controll in private hands whilst others keep the controll in the hands of the public. Here are a collection of views from a variety of perspectives. Some are specifically against PPP, whilst others are generally against privatisation. 

Further information and different perspectives on the role PPPs in the provision of water services may be found on the Web Links page.

For further discussion on private sector engagement and further opinion, particularly related to the situation  in South Africa, see here.


"Management Contracts in Water and Sanitation—Gaza's Experience"by Jamal Saghir, Elisabeth Sherwood, and Andrew Macoun April, 1999 issue of Public Policy for the Private Sector.

In 1996 a management contract was awarded to help the local government service providers and the Palestinian Water Authority improve water service. Since the contract became active, water quality has improved, water losses have fallen, and consumption and revenues have increased. Despite the improved performance, the management contract has illustrated some of the limitations of this approach to private participation in water supply.

" Serving Poor Consumers in South Asian Cities " - by Brocklehurst, Clarissa and Barbara Evans, 2001 from Water & Sanitation Program.

In this paper the authors report on the water services situation in South Asian cities. They are of the opinion that 'the reality is that the private sector has shown interest in in serving the poor, is willing to learn and innovate, and promises greater efficiency which can benefit all consumers. Concerns regarding service to the poor can be addressed by the skillful design of private sector contracts'.

"Private Sector Participation in the Water and Sanitation Sector, " DFID resource paper by Richard Franceys, Loughborough University, July 1997

The paper provides a clear exposition of some of the problems of providing effective, equitable and efficient water and sanitation services in developing countries, presents the case for PPP, and considers some PPP options. It advocates the need for donor agencies to support a multitude of small-scale PPP interventions, as opposed to supporting the relatively few major international concessions, to ensure adequate service provision to lower-income groups.


"Private to Public: International lessons of water remunicipalisation in Grenoble, France" by David Hall and Emanuele Lobina at the Public services International Research Unit (PSIRU), August 2001.

In this report the handing over of the Grenoble water and sanitation services to a PPP company is chronicled. The report looks at events such as bribes paid by the private water companies to local politicians and excessive profiteering by the companies. It concludes that the remunicipalisation of the water services of the city is a step toward improving the services offered to consumers and should be considered asan option in other parts of the world.

"The Folly of Water Privatization in South Africa" by By Roger Ronnie SAMWU General Secretary. Published in the "Sowetan" Newspaper 15th August 2001 .

Roger Ronnie argues that water and sanitation PPP joint ventures do not empower or serve the workers and the poor of the country. Instead only the large multinational water companies benefit. He also cites a couple of case examples from other parts of Africa where the privatisation of water did not improve the level of service for the population.

"Monsanto Moves to Control Water Resources & Fish Farming in India & the Third World " By Vandana Shiva, June 1999

Over the past few years, Monsanto, a chemical firm, has positioned itself as an agricultural company through control over seed - the first link in the food chain. Monsanto now wants to control water, the very basis of life. Vandana Shiva is of the opinion that 'water is a commons and must be managed as a commons'.

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