Direct Democracy Against Privatization

Water Struggles All Over the World

Water privatisation was justified as a means to provide water and sanitation services to all people in a cheaper and more efficient way. This was a promise, that water for profit would be compatible, even beneficial, for achieving water as a fundamental human right. In practice, however, this promise has not been fulfilled.


Privatization of Public Goods and Services

Modern-day privatization of public infrastructure took off in in Britain in the 1980s and spread around the world in the 1990s. The advocates of privatization argued that private business is more efficient and delivers better services than the public sector. However, privatization of public goods and services like water, electricity, telecommunication, transport, health, and education turned out to be a mixed blessing, especially for poorer people.

A fundamental tension exists between private and public interests. Private business is profit-oriented, and providing goods and services to the public is subordinated to this concern. Public enterprises are established to serve public needs, not to make money in the first place. The states’ primary obligation is to ensure all citizens have equal access to public services. Whatever the solution for the provision of water is, the state must take effective measures to make sure that the human right of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is not compromised.

Practical experiences show, that water privatization is neither effective nor cost saving:

The empirical lessons from thousands of local government managers tell a clear and compelling story. Water service is a poor candidate for privatization. There are better alternatives.

Source: Mildred E. Warner (See Related Links)

Privatization of public goods and services gave rise to strong popular resistance. Struggles over water around the world are exemplary. In these struggles, direct democracy provides people with important means to fight for their rights and interests without resort to violence.

Conflicts over water and other public goods are struggles over democracy: who is entitled to decide on the ownership and use of basic resources on which our lives depend?

Related Links

Mildred E. Warner. 2011. Water privatization does not yield cost savings.
(Accessed last on 06 January 2017)

As one city manager explained to me, “If there is no competition, when I privatize, I simply substitute a private monopoly for a public one. Monopolies extract monopoly rents. At least in the public monopoly I can use those rents to extend service.

Quote from the above article

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updated 07.12.2016