Social services


Ghana water privatisation disputed by independent analysts

26 November 2002

An international fact-finding mission on plans to reform the water sector in Ghana (see Bretton Woods Update 23, 27) made its conclusions public before the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF. The mission was composed of prominent officials, experts, trade unionists and members of civil society and the private sector. They travelled to Ghana last April to meet government officials and parliamentarians as well as representatives of civil society, donors and international financial institutions.

The mission’s report concludes that “the current Private Sector Participation (PSP) proposal is not the optimal option for ensuring expanded access to clean and affordable water for the people of Ghana”. It calls for “open dialogue and consultation with a broad representation of stakeholders regarding alternative approaches”. The report points out a number of shortcomings (see box) of the current plan to divide Ghana’s urban water systems into two large concessions which will be leased to two different companies. The World Bank and the IMF have repeatedly pushed privatisation, leading a coalition of Ghanaian NGOs to complain that “much of the current reform process has been propelled by the World Bank and some bilateral donors using their lending and aid as punitive levers”.

At the London launch of the report, a representative of the government of Ghana said the report was neither conclusive nor convincing. He argued that poor people would be better-off under the new scheme compared to the current situation where they have to buy water from tankers at a very high price. The government is therefore reluctant to reopen the water debate and intends to complete the PSP scheme by March 2003. A $100 million World Bank loan to ‘restructure’ the water sector is awaiting approval, having been previously cancelled in March 2000 due to corruption concerns.

Full fact-finding mission report | Get a hard copy

Executive summary

Coalition against privatisation | Official ‘coalition’ for privatisation

World Bank Ghana water Project

Privatisation of water not “pro-poor”, NGOs warn | Ghanaians contest Bank-backed water privatisation

Public citizen on water and the World Bank

Key fact-finding mission conclusions:

  • increased cost-recovery will reduce access by low-income consumers;
  • there is no plan for ensuring access to low-income consumers;
  • investment priorities and lack of capital are likely to privilege wealthier communities and make significant expansion to unserved areas unlikely;
  • the separation of water and sanitation services reduces opportunities to address public health problems;
  • the Public Utility Regulatory Commission’s mandate is weak and IMF loan conditions interfere with PURC‘s independent regulatory function; and
  • the great majority of citizens and civil society organisations were unaware of its basic components and were not involved in the decision-making process.