Dried Up, Sold Out
How the World Bank’s Push for Private Water Harms the Poor
Most people in the United States are accustomed to turning on the faucet and seeing safe and healthful water stream forth. But take a trip into the developing world, and one often finds that the tap is dry. Indeed, literally billions of people in developing countries have no access to water and sewer services. And for those who do, the quality ranges from poor to downright dangerous.
Various international institutions and governments have long been laboring to right this injustice. Unfortunately, their approach has veered off track in the last few decades. Rather than sticking to the proven path of publicly funded water systems, the World Bank and other international financial institutions and governments have been promoting private control and ownership of water services. They claim this will lead to greater efficiency, improved management and more investment.
It hasn’t happened. This report, Dried Up, Sold Out: How the World Bank’s Push for Private Water Harms the Poor, shows that increased private sector participation has not made up for reduced public investment in water systems in developing nations. As a result, people there have had to make do with less or no water.
All that said, this trend can be reversed. The World Bank and other institutions can revert to their original course of promoting investment in public water and sewer systems that ensure the health and vitality of people all around the globe for generations to come.
- Numerous international goals for getting water to poor countries have gone unmet.
- Because of dangerous water quality and lack of improved sanitation, gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea and intestinal parasites are the leading cause of illness and death throughout the developing world.
- Corporate pressure has caused international institutions and national governments to decrease public investments in water provision, causing a simultaneous increase in private-sector profits.
- Rather than focusing on guaranteeing access to clean and affordable water, the World Bank has promoted measures that will cost consumers more money for water.
- Although the messages are mixed, evidence suggests that some in the World Bank are gradually seeing the problems with private control of water.
- Case studies from Africa to Indonesia to Latin America illustrate the flawed logic of water privatization and why now is the time to promote publicly owned and controlled water.