#BeyondElections2016 | As International Water Day is celebrated, water right advocacy group Water for the People Network (WPN) reiterates how neoliberal privatization has displaced jobs in the public water sector and led to more expensive water.
The United Nations themed this year’s Water Day “Better Water, Better Jobs”. It stated that that 1.5 billion people worldwide have water sector-related jobs. The UN underscored the role of water in promoting quality work.
WPN noted however that predominant water privatization has in fact adversely affected public sector employment and even paved way for the deterioration of water services. In Argentina, for instance, some 50% of 7,200 employees lost their jobs when private company French Ondeo’s subsidiary Aguas Argentinas assumed control of Buenos Aires’ public water services in 1993. In Ghana, hundreds of employees were likewise displaced when Dutch and South African Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd. operated the public water utility. In the Philippines, some 3,000 of government’s Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems workers were laid off upon turnover to private water concessionaires Maynilad Water Systems Inc. and Manila Water Company in 1997.
Additionally, despite the promise of reduced rates, water privatization saw bills rising by as much as 177% in Argentina, 80% in Ghana and 585%-1,119% in the Philippines. Argentina, Ghana and the Philippines count among countries directed by the World Bank to privatize state assets to meet loan conditionalities in the 1990s. This ushered in local and foreign private companies to run public utilities such as water as profit-making ventures.
WPN warned that workers’ and consumers’ water woes in the Philippines are bound to persist as 2016 election presidentiables have vowed to continue the Aquino government’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) program in public utilities such as water. These PPPs are set to fortify private sector interests by ensuring corporate profits with public funds at the expense of providing ample services to the public. Neoliberal PPPs contradict the essence of water for the people and by the people, as well as today’s theme of better water and better jobs, WPN said.