November 13, 2014 / 5:23 PM / 5 years ago

Soaring bills see privatised water services handed back to public sector - report

LONDON, Nov 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Soaring water bills, a lack of transparency and under investment have persuaded governments worldwide to give back control of privatised water services to the public sector, according to a report released on Thursday.

Transnational Institute (TNI), an Amsterdam-based thinktank, said more than 180 cities and communities in 35 countries had taken back control of their water services from private operators in the last 15 years.

Water remunicipalisation, the process of reverting services to public control, is being carried out even in former flagships of water privatisation, including La Paz, Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam, the report said.

Satoko Kishimoto, co-author of the report, said the essence of remunicipalisation was providing water to citizens at a lower cost.

According to the report, remunicipalisation has accelerated in wealthy countries, with 81 cases since 2010, double the number from the previous five years.

“Taxpayers’ money should be used to sustain and improve services for future generations to come, rather than solely going towards private operators’ profits,” Kishimoto told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Several major cities have regained control of their water services, including Accra, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur, La Paz and Maputo.

In Jakarta, there is an ongoing campaign to remunicipalise.

The report said there had been very few cases of privatisation in the last 15 years.

The report found that private contracts often proved so unsustainable that local governments opted to terminate them and pay compensation, rather than wait for them to expire before giving control to a public operator.

“For mayors and local authorities who are considering reversing privatised contracts, these findings shows that it can be done to the great benefit of their local community,” Kishimoto said.

The report was released by TNI, Public Services International Research and the Multinational Observatory. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; editing by Alex Whiting)

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