g8 summit: Privatising the rain

There are currently more than 2 billion of the world’s poorest people who have no access to clean water or sanitation.

This crisis, which results in millions of deaths every year, has been made worse by the policies of privatisation promoted by the World Bank and the IMF. What is more these are policies that G8 leaders like Blair, Bush and Chirac are in full support of. The UK government has hired the aptly-named Adam Smith Institute to advise third-world governments on how best to privatise their water. And it’s big business with currently 5% of the world’s population living in countries with privatised water.

Mass privatisation of water in countries like Bolivia, Argentina, Ghana among others has been a boon for business but has provoked outrage from the poor and the working class in those countries. Price rises, lack of investment and workers losing their jobs have affected country after country following privatisation.

In Bolivia, a near insurrection following water price rises in 2000 forced the British/US private water company out of Cochabamba. There have been uprisings and protests in the Philippines, South Africa and Trinidad by people against hikes in prices. Often World Bank and IMF loans are dependent on governments agreeing to privatisation of state assets including water.

The backlash has spread to Tanzania where the government there has cancelled the water contract with British company, Biwater. This company was supposed to bring clean water to Dar es Salaam through new pipe installation. But the Tanzanian government claims no new pipe-work has been installed.

And for the poor who have to pay 1.2 cents per litre for water to water sellers it is a nightmare.

Ironically, given that only 60,000 people in the capital of 3 million have mains access to water, Adam Smith International who spent £250,000 on a video to sell the privatisation project to the government, used the slogan "privatisation brings the rain."

The G8 leaders at their summit will no doubt praise the policy of neo-liberal privatisation that makes capitalist governments and big corporations millions which condemning the poor to increased misery.

This article appears in the latest issue of International Socialist, newspaper of the CWI in Scotland.

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