30 June 2011

The Politics of Privatization

Italian citizens just voted against a government plan to allow private investment in water systems. This cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face action has been presented as a victory of the little people against mega corporate interests, but really means that Italian taxpayers (they exist! really!) will have to subsidize water services for users (often companies) with political connections. The Sicilians may think it means more money from Brussels or Milan, but they may be in for some shocking service disruptions.

This event is just one battle in a war that some people think is worth fighting.

The people at Food and Water Watch are in this category, and they are working hard to prevent water customers and managers from accessing outside money and expertise. They think it's better to have subsidies from central authorities (at least in theory) and want to prevent pricing that would reduce water waste.

This (pro-private) article offers some community responses and rejections of FWW's "help," e.g.,
On May 26, 2011, in the Township of Franklin, NJ, Councilman Phillip Kramer wrote a rebuttal to the published statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, “Franklin Township Rejects United Water Privatization Proposal,” taking exception to its multiple distortions of facts. Councilman Kramer went on to say that Hauter was out to make people believe that her group’s role in the decision-making process was favorable when in fact, “uniformly Council members that spoke of Food & Water Watch did so in a negative manner." While defending the group’s right to participate in free speech and the public review process, Councilman Kramer finds that Food & Water Watch is “a group that is unencumbered by the truth” and says he “cannot however defend their use of scare tactics, exaggerations and outright distortions." Finally, he asks them to “kindly remove your signs illegally placed in our town, especially those placed on open space property," calling their posting disgraceful behavior toward the planet.
I was interested to see this statement (and others like it) in the article, since it reflects my experience: FWW and Hauter "interpret" facts in a way that makes them either crazy or liars.

During and after our debate in Berlin, Hauter claimed many things that made no sense or undermined her arguments. For example:
  • I am "dismissive of the government's role in providing water" when that role is at the center of most of my work and writing.

  • WaterHealth International and its "investors were making piles of money selling water in villages in Africa and India."

  • We can subsidize water service to the poor by taxing global capitalism.

  • Ad nauseum.
These two examples are only recent: FWW has been been wrong in nearly everything I've read from them.

Bottom Line: FWW is now too boring, wrong and predictable to waste my time (or your time) on this blog.

2 comments:

EdB said...

Hi.

I thought the public-private debate was already dead... Anyways, , I feel like there is way too much political bias on both ends of the spectrum, and it all boils down to finding the best way to have accountability linkages, as consumers or as citizens.

So, I guess my question is- How accountable is the Italian state?

Anonymous said...

That's easy. Go to this URL:

http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.asp