Stirring the Waters

Women in Church and Society (WICAS) Asian Regional Consultation
17-22 April 2006 Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Presentation: Water by the claws of privatization

Morning presentation by Jan Willem Rosenboom
Country Team Leader, Water and Sanitation Program,
World Bank, Cambodia

The essence of free water, which is a gift of God, is lost in the sharp claws of privatization. However, privatization of water systems in developing countries is often seen as a solution to the problem of scarcity of water supply.

According to Jan Willem Rosenboom, a water supply engineer working with the Water and Sanitation Program in Cambodia that is administered by the World Bank, 1.1 billion people currently do not have access to any water services. The developing countries may have the technology but they cannot address the issue without capacity and money; hence, the intervention of private firms is deemed necessary.

Mr Rosenboom said that governments seek to involve the private sector in water and sanitation generally because of the following reasons:

  • To bring technical and managerial expertise and new technology into the sector
  • To improve economic efficiency in then sector—in both operations performance and the use of capital investment
  • To inject large-scale investment capital into the sector or gain access to private capital markets
  • To reduce public subsidies to the sector
  • To insulate the group from short-term political intervention in utility operations and limit opportunities for intervention by powerful interest groups, and
  • To make the sector more responsive to the need of the consumers and preferences.

He also cited the result of a study conducted in 2005 by groups of researchers that, 'there is no significant difference between the efficiency performance of public and private operators in this sector.' He claimed, however, that across sectors, the more relevant variables include the degree of competition, the design of regulation, the quality of institutions and the degree of corruption.

Mr Rosenboom has been working in Cambodia for 13 years and a few years in East and West Africa.

To read the presentation, please click here.

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