multinational corporations - are they always bad for the sector?

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Re: multinational corporations - are they always bad for the sector?

a) It´s not THE BOLIVIAN water supply – as in many countries the water supply is municipality driven

b) There have been only to cases (2 municipalities) of privatization in Bolivia – this is more than 10 years ago, the act this video is referring to is 15 years ago. The true fact is, there has been a situation called water war (Guerra del agua) which was horrible and a VERY clear example of how (necessary) tariff raises never should be done. And that the introduction of privatization has to be thought about VERY carefully.

c) no water company has the right (and possibility) to take the ground of anybody due to the not paying of the tariff, contrary to what has been stated in the video.

d) there is a severe problem in Bolivia (and other Andenean countries) that people think that treated water is god given and therefore could not be charged for. This is especially a problem during installation of water meters. These activities have always to be accompanied with social measures, explaining the value of water etc. It is very common that people tend to talk about aspects that rainwater is god given and should not be charged. They don´t see that treating and piping and pressuring the water has a cost, and therefore it is charged. To my (fair) knowledge there is NO case in Bolivia where the use of rainwater has been forbidden.

e) One really large problem has been that the private raised the tariff in a 100 %. This was the moment for the revolution. They took the raise back due to the war of water (Guerra del agua) but the sad truth is - even today there is a good part of the population - especially the poor people, who are still supplied by cistern, who pay 7 times = 700% of the actual tariff for their water - this for a quality which is not trustworthy.

f) It is true that there have been severe errors in how to introduce the absolutely necessary raises in the water tariff but this is not an aspect of privatization. Evo Morales raised gasoline in 2008 or 2009 without a clear social concept and communication. He had to take back the raise. There was no privatization involved.

g) Did you know that the many of the leading organizers of the water war the next year tried to get their personal advantages out of the large visibility they had during the situation for mainly for their own personal benefit? And that Cochabamba suffered long years (some would say is still suffering – see e)) from the situation they passed through?

h) Drawing a connection towards Nazism drives me crazy - one has absolutely nothing to do with the other – use of such pictures is for propagandistic reasons not due to facts. I think the Nazism is way too serious to be used for cheap comparisons.

I hope this clarifies my statement from the other post.

Christoph
P.S. I did not watch the longer videos.
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  • joeturner
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Re: multinational corporations - are they always bad for the sector?

I was recently covering the UN-water conference as part of my job as a journalist*. I was quite surprised at the extent to which the UN seems to be courting multinational corporations with regard to the management of water resources.

In general, there were two areas where multinationals were saying that they have a role: first with regard to the supply of water and sanitation services, second with regard to the management of local water resources.

On the latter point, several NGOs are working with large investors in the multinationals, and they (the investors) are apparently increasingly seeing the future risk of poor management of water as a threat to the future business sustainability, so expect more and more accurate information from the corporations. This, apparently, might even lead to better monitoring technologies of water and sanitation systems - on the basis that the businesses/investors need to get better information about the impact that they are having.

On the supply of water and sanitation services, one multinational supplier was making the case to me that they have the knowledge and technical ability to deliver and run systems efficiently, particularly if they have a direct financial interest in the infrastructure.

We often on this forum are talking about dispersed systems, so the question for me is whether there is ever a role for multinationals in the delivery of sanitation services. I think I would probably have said no before attending the conference, but now.. well, I'm not sure. Maybe in a dense urban area, large infrastructural projects are the only viable option and maybe these can only be run by multinationals. Maybe the question is/should be more about how the project is being designed and run rather than whether or not it should be a corporation running it.

Kai has already made the counter-point:

unless the multinational is a "B" type corporation then, no, I don't think they have a role to play. Caring only about profit, in my mind (and in practice) destroys any real and lasting effectiveness on the ground. Plus, I'm a staunch opponent of corporate greenwashing so I don't want their money either.


Anyone else have a thought?

*I do not usually cover water or sanitation, as there is little demand for such stories in European media.

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Re: justice and toilets

Right. Well, I don't see that the name of the corporation in question really matters in the case of the points/questions I have already made about the role of multinationals in the water sector.

And given that you haven't paid me to conduct the interview, I am under no obligation to tell you.

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Re: justice and toilets

Joe - To answer your question, unless the multinational is a "B" type corporation then, no, I don't think they have a role to play. Caring only about profit, in my mind (and in practice) destroys any real and lasting effectiveness on the ground. Plus, I'm a staunch opponent of corporate greenwashing so I don't want their money either.

And regarding my characterization of your source and their employer as "unnamed" I referred to them in this way because, well, they were unnamed. I would have preferred that at least the name of the company appeared so that it could stand on its own merits. As you are no doubt aware, many if not most of these water companies (certainly the largest) have appalling track records and so by failing to divulge the name of the one in question it felt to me like you were shielding them from any kind of criticism. Perhaps it was nothing more than you deciding to withhold the names in order to adhere to some journalistic code or ethical obligation. However, given that you didn't provide a disclaimer it just smelled fishy.
Kai Mikkel Førlie

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Re: justice and toilets

First, sorry for being a knowing participant in the hijacking of your thread. Joe started it! :evil:

Second, I think I first learned about the history that surrounds Bolivian water privatization either from reading the book written by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke called " Blue Gold " (or perhaps from watching the the associated documentary film):

associated documentary

...or from watching John Pilger's documentary called "The war on Democracy":



I felt a short video detailing these events was more appropriate for the forum than a full length film. But since you've argued that the events as depicted in the short video are inaccurate, I've posted the longer films (which depict roughly the same history) because I'm curious to hear your reactions to those as well. I look forward to your reply.
Kai Mikkel Førlie

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Re: justice and toilets

Hi,

first of all, this thread was not aimed to large services - it was aimed to small enterpreneurs doing the pit latrine emptying (at least I undestood theviedo in that direction).

second: Kai that video about Bolivia is TOTAL rubbish - wrong from beginning to the end.

I will answer later.

Christoph

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  • joeturner
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Re: justice and toilets

So you think that large multinationals can never have a part to play?

I was having a conversation, there was no hype. I am aware of problems, but is it possible that these are to do with how individual projects are run rather than that they are centralised?

And the interview was on record so the source is not unnamed. I just have not named him here.

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Re: justice and toilets

Joe - Of course, one has only to look at the debacle in Bolivia with Bechtel to poke a country-sized hole in the logic (and marketing and monopoly aspirations) of your unnamed source from that unnamed western water company. Surely you didn't succumb to their hype?

Kai Mikkel Førlie

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justice and toilets

Note by moderator: this post was in this thread but has been moved to here to keep both threads focussed.
A similar topic on multi-nationals was discussed here before.

++++++++++

I don't know about South Africa - however I noticed at a recent UN Water meeting I attended that much of the focus from the UN agencies seems to be on large infrastructure projects and working with multinational corporationss to invest in them.

So it seems at least possible that this is about contracts awarded to large infrastructure managers rather than local entrepreneurs in the water sector.

I was able to interview someone from a large (western) water company. I was quite skeptical, but his argument was that multinationals have the experience and technological knowledge needed to effectively build and run infrastructure. And if they have invested in the infrastructure, they have an interest in keeping it running well.

I have to say that he was quite convincing.

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