by Scott Thill
November 2, 2010
from AlterNet Website
But don't tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank.
Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world's largest private water corporation.
Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe's water resources.
All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization.
In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light's water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy.
That's just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in,
...and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.
The Philippines is an excellent example of water privatization's broken model.
After passing the Water Crisis Act in 1995, the Philippines landed a $283 million privatization plan managed partially by multinational giants like Suez and Bechtel. After some success, everything fell apart after 2000, and it wasn't long before tariff prices repeatedly increased, water service and quality worsened, and public opposition skyrocketed.
Today, some Filipinos still don't have water connections, tariffs have increased from 300 to 700 percent in some regions, and outbreaks of cholera and gastroenteritis have cost lives and sickened hundreds.
But asking the World Bank to learn from disaster would be akin to annihilating its overall mission, which is to capitalize on disaster in the developing world in pursuit of profit.
Its nasty history of economic and environmental shock therapy sessions have severely wounded more than one country, and has been sharply criticized by brainiacs like Joseph Stiglitz, who was once the Bank's chief economist, and Naomi Klein, whose indispensable history The Shock Doctrine is a horrorshow of privatization nightmares.
From its cultural imperialism and insensitivity to regional differences to its domination by a handful of economic elites drunk on deregulation, whose utter failure needs no further example than our continuing global economic crisis, the World Bank's good intentions have been compromised by an unending string of terrible press and crappier deals.
That's been a recipe for failure and protest, especially in the very region that IFC and Veolia hope to pump for all its water worth.
In 1998, World Bank loans were secured to upgrade the crumbling post-Soviet water system in Yerevan, a city in the Eastern European nation of Armenia. With a caveat: It had to be managed by a private contractor.
The Italian transnational ACEA landed the job, but quickly failed to extend water access, partially thanks to company corruption.
It also failed to properly maintain water pressure,
allowing sewage to seep into the city's drinking water and sicken hundreds.
Despite the travesty, the World Bank issued another contract in 2006 to
Veolia, which hired ACEA's top executive. Two years later, only one in three
Yerevan residents were lucky enough to score 24-hour water service, while
contamination problems continued. Veolia's contract with the city is up for
renewal in 2015.
The city's water bills skyrocketed to 12 times the price of service in other parts of the country. Multiply that times most every nation or city that has privatized its water service, and you've got a good idea of why the World Bank's IFC is under fire for rapacious resource-snatching.
And why the developing world is right to be wary of its good graces, although the World Bank can do good when it so chooses.
But rather than repair privatization's failed project at its source, the World Bank is simply spinning off its compromised philosophy to the IFC.
So while the World Bank may be torn in its endorsement of water privatization, the IFC has no such reservations, in hopes of dodging the slings and arrows of public outcry, and perhaps legal liability.
It's not just water that's at the center of Earth's mounting resource wars.
In late October, Britain's government announced it was looking to sell off its state-owned forests to counteract a yawning deficit. Today, natural gas companies are preparing to drill in America's national parks. Indeed, America and Britain's bungled occupation of Iraq is a protracted resource war for control of the embattled nation's oil reserves.
Water is just one more natural resource, albeit the most important one, worth a killing to those seeking to callously leverage limited funds for innocent lives.
Which is another way of saying that, regardless of the refreshing trend toward re-municipalization, no one should expect the World Bank or its IFC untouchables to give up the privatization and deregulation ghost anytime soon.
That means that every city, and citizen, is due for a day of reckoning of some sort, and should fight back against the bankrupt privatization paradigm with everything in its arsenal.
And Barlow adds,