Water Privatisation in Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean has been the second largest recipient of foreign PSP for water and sewage sector after East Asia and the Pacific. By the end of 2011 it had received 226 projects worth $30 billion, or 41% of the total global investment in developing countries. The region also had the second greatest number of either cancelled or in distress projects, 28 projects in all, worth $9.0 billion.

Argentina has adopted privatisation extensively. During 1991 – 1999, about 30% of water companies covering approximately 60% of the population of Argentina were privatised and reports excellent results, particularly in a decrease in child mortality. By the end of 2011, 19 PSP projects worth $8.2 billion had been carried out in the water sector. All of which were utility projects. This accounted for 31% of the PPI or one of the largest shares in Latin America.

Bolivia has introduced a number of major water privatisation schemes and has been the scene of some of the most violent anti-privatisation campaigns in the last few years, escalated by political activists. These have resulted in 2 major privatisations being reversed, Cochabamba and El Alto. Both have become cause celebres for anti-privatisation activists. By the end of 2011, only 2 PSP schemes remained in operation.

Brazil has achieved substantial progress in the coverage of water supply and sanitation services over the last three decades, much of this effort being the fruit of the government’s National Water and Sanitation Programme (PLANASA), which has attracted much attention as a model for improvement in the developing world.

81 PSP projects worth $4.8 billion had been affected in the water sector in Brazil by the end of 2011. This accounted for 18% of the PPI in Latin America.

There is growing concern in Brazil over the slow progress of landmark legislation aimed at liberalising basic sanitation concessions and heralding large-scale investment in the country’s under-resourced water and wastewater sector. At the same time there is opposition to privatisation at a number of levels.

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