• Bruce Rich
  • Environmental Forum
  • January-February 2011
  • p. 20

The debate over privatization of water services is highly politicized. Access to water is recognized by the United Nations as a basic human right. Civil society groups have argued that privatization of such a basic human right, and subjecting access to water for the poor to market forces, is ethically objectionable. For some economists and policymakers, privatization and market solutions are the only hope, given the mismanagement of many public water utilities in developing nations. But the implication that such public utilities are inherently inefficient is false; while the World Bank promoted privatization in Bolivia, right next door in Brazil 27 out of 29 state capitals were served by public utilities, some better managed than some counterparts in the industrialized world. Ironically, at the extreme, the pro-market and pro-government fundamentalists are mirror images of one another: the anti-privatizers point to market failure in providing affordable water for the poor, and the pro-privatizers point to government failure....

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