Posted by: r.m. | April 24, 2014

World Bank – at it again: pushing for privatization despite its failings

No matter how the World Bank likes to wrap itself up in gentle talk about helping the poor, their agenda remains quite clear: to support the rich.

Here they go again.

The World Bank Group pushes privatization as a key solution to the water crisis. It is the largest funder of water management in the developing world, with loans and financing channeled through the group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). Since the 1980s, the IFC has been promoting these water projects as part of a broader set of privatization policies, with loans and financing tied to enacting austerity measures designed to shrink the state, from the telecom industry to water utilities.

But international advocacy and civil society groups point to the pockmarked record of private-sector water projects and are calling on the World Bank Group to end support for private water.

In the decades since the IFC’s initial push, we have seen the results of water privatization: It doesn’t work. Water is not like telecommunications or transportation. You could tolerate crappy phone service, but have faulty pipes connecting to your municipal water and you’re in real trouble. Water is exceptional.


Even as the World Bank Group continues to promote water privatization, its own data reveal that a high percentage of its private water projects are in distress. Its project database for private participation in infrastructure documents a 34 percent failure rate for all private water and sewerage contracts entered into between 2000 and 2010, compared with a failure rate of just 6 percent for energy, 3 percent for telecommunications and 7 percent for transportation, during the same period.”

To read the article in full, go here



  1. “He who says it cannot be done should not stand in the way of he who is doing it ” – Chinese Proverb.

    Rania, where do I start?

    1-water and the nation; for 67 years , the governments of lebanon were unable to fix the water infrastructure in lebanon. Be aware that until today we use only 17 % of our water. israel uses 107% of it. water has become the most strategic element of the regional geopolitic paradigms. The reason for it is the incapacity of our ministers to agree on an integrated water plan for the nation. Tell me Rania , what do we do? we let go? or do we try to fix it?

    2- the role of the citizen . we believe that if the politicians cannot do it, maybe the civil society can propose a water plan that make sense. this is exactly what CIH civic Influence Hub has done-the hard way- not through demagogic blogging but the professional way of gathering citizens ready to sacrifice time and some funds to finance an integrated water plan with the partici[pation of 30 lebanese water experts, 20 NGo’s volunteers, and more then 300 citizens joining forces to gather data, do field work, write, illustrate, edit the most comprehensive integrated water plan ever done in lebanon: BlueGold 5 year plan. We called it bluegold because if bountiful, water can be gold in value and if scarce in times of global warming and drought , it is rare and valuable as gold. so gold terminology is not about greed but value. gold is in the eye of the experts, citizens, and volunteeers who contributed to the initiative.

    3-the truth about the plan. As a scientist who read the plan , I suppose that you understood its core mecanism. INTEGRATION of all the water paradigms in one plan . IE : less dams, generalization of drop irrigation, forestation, recycling , harvesting, grey water network in parallel to fresh water, fresh water springs under the sea, water quality and water purification, 40 initiatives on 20 years and 14 immediately to create a strategic water reserve for days of drought, for bringing the water bill down to the people, for getting 24h water a day, for exchange of water v/s food to reduce the food bill of the nation and create a sustainable calory/citizen equation that make sense. Of course, you read maybe about all this but maybe you didnot find any sensationalism in talking about the value of the plan. You stick to the big privatization word. so let’s talk about privatization, ot according to world bank and the many researches done and submitted by you but accordinfg the Blue Gold.

    4- Privatization. Blue GOld calls for the establishing of the National Water Council who will assess the plans under te supervision of a regulatory authority and a watch dog association composed by citizens and experts,
    the NWC will send tenders to operators who will sign BOT contracts with the government for building the water needed infrastructure. This will cost zero to the government. Who will invest the money and who will earn the dividends? a law will ask for each operator to include in his capital 1/3 public funds, 1/3 private funds and 1/3 citizens participation, all will earn about 12% for their investment. the water property remains to the state , BOT are not concessions. BlueGold need 5 billion$ to be. the government plan need 7.5 billion $ to be and the government cannot get this cash, you know that we are already indebted by 60 billion $

    5-the anti-trust law. there will be a minimum of 60 operators , operating in all the regions of lebanon, favoring the decentralization scheme proposed by Taef and the government and spreading the water benefits all round the country in a fair way between all the regions. AN OPERATOR cannot be in more than one operation. private investment is limited to a certain quota, citizen’s investment as well per person

    6-misunderstandings. it is easy to raise concerns and big theories about privatization, but which one? in which country? is private/public/ civil participation PPCP a form of privatization? should and can lebanon, due to its notorious incapacity of managing its water, TRY a formula that will be unique for him

    7-Common sense. Do you have a better idea then asking for a petition to destroy a sound initiative that can save the water of lebanon? do you give yourself a chance to dig into the plan and eventually being a scientist to improve on it? do you want to create a nuclear weapon, or do you prefer to build a nuclear power station ? more useful to mankind?

    8- your supporters. have the courage -by honesty to your supporters- to present all the aspects of the plan with full integrity and then ask them if they still want to vote against it?

    9- Scientific debate . Face the CIH experts and bring with you your closest supporters and transform partiality in an open constructive debate, THEN procede with your petition if you still want it, at least you will not be accused of demagogy and obscurantism. AS far as CIH is concerned, BLueGOLd is designed by the lebanese people to the lebanese people, we have only one leader to guide us, THE IDEA THAT WE CANNOT CARRY ON LOSING OUR WATER IN THE SEA. Is it what you want?

    10- supporters. BlueGold is already supported until today april 25, 2014 by 60000 voters on internet and sms and 52000 facebook supporters 112000 in all. are they all ignorant about the realities of the plan? do you know more then them ? did you do more homework than compiling irrelevant studies to the specific , complicasted lebanese water problem?

    a bluegold supporter

  2. Dear Farid,
    It has been a while since our encounter, I hope all is going well,
    As a reply to your comments:
    1. Yes, the government does not prioritize water and this has to change. We need to strengthen the government’s role, this is possible, the public sector can be improved. We definitely cannot let go, we have to fix this, we have to strengthen the public sector and pressure the government to take action and put water on the top list.
    2. Yes, every citizen can be involved in some way, in a public sector and citizen partnership. This has been apllied in many countries and has been a success. Look at Uruguay! We do not want to compare water to gold, as gold has no value, only a monetary value, which isn’t a value at all. Water is precious whether bountiful or scarce, it is a human right, unlike gold, which is useless and only has an aesthetic and commercial value, and is an element which when exploited, hurts both people and the environment. So there is not one single attribute of gold that we want to compare water to.
    3. I wont comment on the plan, different scientists may have different opinions, and scientists are human, who have different values and priorities, beliefs and interests. Anyway, the science behind the plan isn’t the issue.
    4. One question: who will choose the people who will be part of the council? Another question, these ‘operators’ who are investing these incredible sums, how much profit do they expect from this project?
    6. Due to its notorious capacity at privatizing everything, there should not be any form of privatization in Lebanon, as the government is too weak to control it and as the formula you propose is not unique in any way and there are examples from all around the world to prove its weaknesses and flaws. Nobody is raising big theories, but only very simple and direct critiques of your project.
    7. Yes, many people have given themselves many chances to dig into the project. Too many, I must say.
    8. Did all of your 60,000 dig into the plan? Are you offering enough information for everyone to vote? Or do you rely on advertisements which not present the whole idea? There is a direct link to the ‘vote’ page, the emphasis is on the voting, not on the project.
    9. Since you are very transparent in your book and website (for those who want to know more and research well), nothing is obscure. Your plan is clear, or at least the main points are.
    10. I would call no one ignorant, among the 60,000 there is a lot of variety, I am sure many know the plan very well, some less, others not at all. The homework was studying in detail your plan. It was done dear farid, you can be sure of that
    About the proverb you used, I can only say that I do believe it can be done! The public sector can be improved and the citizens can work together.

  3. layal, it is not my plan, it is the plan of 50 lebanese citizens and experts working together for a year and a half
    do not fantasize too much on the word Gold, this is an idiom: white gold for snow, bluegold for water, green gold for agriculture , golden beach, golden year , etc.. gold in our mind represents value, or scarcity not more, if you have an idea for a better terminology please let us know about it. meanwhile , this one worked well with the people, they connected with it easily . But what is more important , we are obviously dealing with the most important ingredient of life , and treat it this way. SO thank you for focusing on the content of BlueG.. oops sorry Bluewhatdoyouprefer , for improving our lives and securing the future of lebanon

  4. Farid, where do i start ?

    1. The public sector in lebanon has failed to manage resources. Everyone understands this. But this is not because of “the incapacity of our ministers to agree”, it’s because the public sector has been systematically degraded by the people in government who “happen” to have business interests themselves, for the very point Bluegold is making, privatization.

    2. CIH is NOT “citizens”. CIH is a lobby of businessmen (your own words) who pay a $50,000 entry fee & $10,000 annual fee if they want to be on the steering committee (the decision makers).

    3. The technical aspect of the plan, while containing many positive elements (techniques that buegold hasn’t really discovered, but have been around for a while), is weak. The technicality is not very important to us, at least not compared to the real core that is privatization of water – and yes i can say privatization as your CIH CEO (Ziad) explicitly said so.

    4. & 5. The PPCP plan you propose sounds good on paper, provided we have the kind of government & civil society that can monitor/control a very hungry private sector. All experience in lebanon – from full privatization to “operator” masked privatization – shows that any partnership with the private sector is catastrophic to everyone except private businessmen, many of whom are politicians in office.

    6. Again, this formula is not unique to lebanon at all. This has been tried and has failed all around the world. The viable alternative that has succeeded (especially when it replaces a failed PPP) is a community-based scheme of water management in which the government is a coordinating partner.

    7. It’s rather telling that someone working on the water issue would be so environmentally unaware as to compare it to a nuclear power station. NO, we don’t need a water Fukushima (operated by a private company under PPP, by the way).

    8. The people working against this plan know close to nothing about bluegold from the misleading advertisement you have put out, or the incomplete, vague booklet. They dug deeper, instead of blindly voting.

    9. A debate is possible, but i don’t see what it could reveal beyond what we already know. Be sure that anyone spending time and energy working against a project such as bluegold – people who don’t have the resources you have – will have studied every aspect and made sure it was dangerous enough to stand against.

    10. Votes gotten from a shallow advertisement mean no more than votes that lebanese politicians get. You are the ones who consider your supporters ignorant when, instead of explaining the legal framework of your plan & speaking to them intellectually, you appeal to the superficial attraction to gold, sensuality (supermodel ad), & fame (famous actors). But i understand from your comment that you simply wanted to reach many people and get as many votes as possible.


  5. Privatizing water will only lead to further disasters. S/He who pays more will receive water when it becomes scarcer with time. S/He who will not be able to afford such “luxury” will die of thirst. Yes, the government is not doing its job; yes corruption should be dealt with. However, imagine life (water) in the hands of those only see green in life?

    Privatizing is not a solution, it is just an excuse to rob the poor and get richer. It is not hard to find a solution, with the involvement of experts, engineers, and others we can come up with a plan to manage the Lebanese water.

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