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June 21, 2005

The Groan on Water.

The Groan has a report on water and sanitation in Addis Ababa. Slightly confused I fear:

Sanitation is a Cinderella service. Everyone knows they need water, and even the poorest are prepared to pay for it.

But the costs of poor sanitation - the increased risk of disease and the environmental damage - fall more heavily on society as a whole than on the individual. So few poor people are prepared to pay.

No, I haven’t editied that in any way. They really do say in one sentence that even the poorest are prepared to pay and in the next that poor people are not.

The basic problem with hte piece isthat they only ever talk about aid as a method of alleviating the situation. Yes, certainly, the problem is insufficient capital to construct a functioning water and sewage system. But there are two possible solutions. Aid via government (at whatever level) to build one, or sell/give the rights, along with such eminent domain as is necessary for the construction, to a private company.

At this point I think you can guess which I think will bring water and sewage services more quickly....that’s an obvious extension of my Bayesian Priors. I’m sure that there are others who would differ. But not to even mention the option seems a little odd, that’s all.

June 21, 2005 in Idiotarians | Permalink


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The poorest are prepared to pay for water but not for sanitation. Maybe I am reading it differently to you, Tim.

Posted by: Nik | Jun 21, 2005 11:16:51 AM

Has a major city ever had a sewage system successfully built by a private company? I'm pretty sure that no town in the UK had its sewage system built this way.

Posted by: dsquared | Jun 21, 2005 12:28:40 PM

What about Bazalgette's superb work on London's sewers? Wasn't that at least partially privately funded?

Posted by: Auntymarianne | Jun 21, 2005 1:50:51 PM

Yes, Tim, the poor are prepared to pay for water (first sentence) but not for sanitation (second sentence). I must admit, though, it took several readings to figure it out!

Posted by: lth | Jun 21, 2005 2:03:44 PM

Doh! The capitalist machine turns EVERYTHING into a 'commodity'.


Bloggers of the Left Unite!!!

Posted by: Comrade_Smirnoff | Jun 21, 2005 6:26:06 PM

According to the history of Thames Water, Bazalgette's sewers were financed by a tax on Londoners. I seem to remember that the Chase Manhattan Bank was founded on a corporate vehicle initially established to provide sewage services to Manhattan, but I'm pretty sure they didn't actually do it.

Posted by: dsquared | Jun 22, 2005 7:50:41 AM