09 January 2013

Who to blame?

Guillermo Donoso posted this image on his Tumblr account, carrying forward the caption "this is a ridiculously powerful picture."


It is also a misleading picture (GD agrees), since the most common reason that the poor lack access to water is NOT a businessman who "owns" the water, but a bureaucrat or politician who has -- though negligence or corruption -- failed to allow water to flow to those most in need, and most willing to pay. (I covered this topic in my paper on water and human rights, which I am now revising.)

Bottom Line: Businessmen do NOT benefit from dead customers but profits, and it's more profitable to provide good water service to people. It's even BETTER when there's competition to provide those services, but that's not always easy.*

* We ran low on fuel while riding in the middle of nowhere in the Philippines. We we arrived at a "gas station," the price of gas was only 3-4 percent higher than the city prices. Why? Because that "station" was a guy who sold gas by the liter in refilled Coke bottles. He couldn't charge more because his neighbor could "start a gas station" in a day. This unregulated outcome was good for consumers and sellers.

3 comments:

Eaton Hogg said...

The picture is misleading because it is confusing. The nice man is helping the child by kinking the hose and diverting any water that would have flowed from it to the child’s side. You don’t have to be a plumber to know that water flows out of a spigot, not into it. Also, how can you tell whether the man is a businessman or politician? I think he must be a pastor. I think we see things according to our assumptions.

Chris Milton said...

Ye-es. Yes the politicians are just as much to blame as the businessmen, but business is about making money. If you cannot make *enough* (ie profit margins are not high enough) then business tends not to get involved. Not wanting to provoke argument, but just unhappy with the blanket exoneration of businessmen.

David Zetland said...

@Chris -- corrupt businessmen are enabled by politicians, so I am talking about cause, not innocence :)