Water privatization in Lebanon

Mapping Lebanese Rivers

Water privatization touches on many intriguing and conflictual debates such as public versus economic good, monopolies, human rights and government failures in provision of services. The lists of incentives or the lack of them for the market to provide for the low income areas are obvious.

 If I were to debate this issue in theory, I would definitely agree on the dangers of turning a public need into an economic good controlled by efficient yet financially guided partners.

However, in the midst of a continuous debate in Lebanon about water and electricity privatization I found my position less definite

Demonstrators burn tires to block roads in  south Beirut, which have suffered extensive electricity and water cuts. (Hugh Macleod/IRIN) http://electronicintifada.net/content/politicized-power-cuts-behind-deadly-riots/7328
This should show if anything how context and politics are intertwined with issues regarding infrastructure. In Beirut, ‘most’ homes are serviced with water and electricity. Yet the quality of this service is clearly below ‘average’ and expensive. Moreover, the government continuously declares a loss in these sectors. This is attributed to several causes and one of which is that a very powerful and militarized political party's supporters do not pay for these services. The government threatened by this party does not enforce any type of cuts in the services that is different from the paying citizen. It is important to note though that a large group of this political party is low income yet a large number of low-income residents that are not supporters of this party have to pay for receiving the services.  Is it fair that they suffer the burdens?  In such a context, will privatization increase the problem of access and affordability or make it more equitable? 

I find myself unable to answer this question yet I can  highlight the polarization a private company creates. Yet I feel like I need to add that public private partnerships with subsidies provided for all low income residents by the national government regardless of political affiliations seems like the most equitable recommendation. 

What do you think?

Nahr Damour (river Damour) at the bottom of the Chouf Valley, as it flows through Jisr el Qadi, Lebanon Peripitus

1 comment:

  1. The political tensions you mention in this post, prohibits the existance of efficient private operators. The reason nothing moves on water and electricity in Lebanon is that those controling these infrastructure are making huge profits from the current situation and will continue to do so. There are indications of possible movements now but the corrupt operators want to make sure they extract as much profit that will continue in the future. So do not expect any movement that is not thoroughly corrupt by the current government.