Jul 16, 2011

Water: Meanwhile in the rest of the world...

Should water supply be national or private?
We Italians had a referendum abouth water. It became a hot topic, since it was sold as a matter of deciding whether water is a public good or not, and many people voted with this idea in mind. But actually that was not the matter at all. The question was quite more technical, but I am not going to talk about that here. You can find information elsewhere.
I did not have the possibility to vote and sincerily I do not really know what I would have voted.
Anyway, the debate in Italy was quite on the ethical side, contrasting freedom and efficiency of private markets on the one hand and the evils of private profits taking control over a public good and a human right on the other. Few serious analysis came into the public debate, maybe because they were too technical and not suited for the public, or maybe because only few people bothered looking at them.
I do not want to say that one should not vote on the ground of sentiments, ideals, rights, social and ethical beliefs. That's one of the highest moment in a democracy, a fundamental one, when the matter requires this kind of judgment. But this was not the case of our last referendum, at least not only.

Here an interesting article from Borraz-GonzalesPampillon-Olarreaga on water nationalization vs privatization. The case study is South America, Uruguay in particular.

Our results suggest that the nationalisation of water services had a positive and statistically significant impact on access to the sanitation network, in particular among the poorest households. [...]
Nationalisation seemed to have led to higher quality of water as well. Indeed, the impact of nationalisation on the detection of abnormal levels in microbiological and inorganic water tests is always negative and has a relatively large coefficient, suggesting that nationalisation led to an improvement in water quality. [...]
To summarise, it seems that in Uruguay the public operator provided a service of equal, if not better, quality than the one previously provided by private firms.

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