by Steve McGiffen
In the recent negotiations around the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the European Union asked 72 WTO member states to open up water delivery and waste water management to international competition. This request was not made with the interests of people in developing countries in mind. Its aim was to help European Transnational Corporations to enhance their profitability.
As the UN's Human Development Report 2006 pointed out, 'in countries with high levels of poverty among unserved populations, public finance is a requirement for extended access regardless of whether the provider is public or private.' This is the key to understanding how private corporations hope to 'profit' from supplying the poor with water. The money will come out of the pockets of western taxpayers in the form of development aid. Instead of going to the people development aid is allegedly intended to help, large slices of this money will go to the shareholders of transnational corporations. This is scarcely 'profit' by the normal definition. It is, rather, a handy way of transferring public money into private pockets, of filling the corporate trough at the public expense.
Steve McGiffen is editor of Spectrezine. He is writing a book on EU water policy with Kartika Liotard, MEP. This article is adapted from a speech which McGiffen gave to students of New York University at NYU's base in Paris on 5th December, 2008. The book, Poisoned Spring will be published by Pluto Press in May, 2009.