Taps run dry as prices soar in Tanzania water privatisation: urban poor are neglected in World Bank project, says ActionAid
"This is a project that was supposed to help the poor. The figures tell a different story."
City-dwellers in one of Africa’s poorest countries have faced soaring bills and mass disconnections since an international consortium, which includes the British company Biwater, was put in charge of their water supply.
According to a new report from the development charity ActionAid, water privatisation in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam has neglected the needs of poor people, despite the World Bank’s assurances that access to water for poor residents would be improved.The report is published today as international development secretary Hilary Benn prepares to confront the Bank with growing British doubts about the use of aid to buy policy change. ActionAid says that in Tanzania the Bank used the promise of a $143 million loan to push through an inappropriate project in the face of public opposition.Water bills have risen sharply - by 40 per cent according to one estimate - since the Dar es Salaam Water and Sanitation Authority was leased to a consortium called City Water, in 2003. The World Bank expects prices to double eventually. ActionAid found that poor families are turning to unsafe water supplies rather than pay the increased bills.City Water, which is part-owned by the Surrey-based company Biwater, disconnects whole areas in an attempt to get people with illegal connections to pay up. In poor districts there is anger at the high prices and poor service. ActionAid was told of water bill collectors being chased away with dogs and knives."Donors have been pushing through a project in which 98% of the investment will go to the areas where the richest 20% of the population live," said Billy Abimbilla, director of ActionAid Tanzania.ActionAid believes it is time for donors to stop tying aid and debt relief to risky and unproven economic reforms such as privatisation.
The report’s main author Romilly Greenhill said: "The World Bank is still lending money to developing country governments on condition that they adopt specific economic policies such as privatisation. They make it look as if the countries are privatising of their own free will, but these are poor governments which can hardly walk away from a cheque for $100 million. The UK’s Department For International Development is rethinking the conditions it attaches to aid. As the list of failed privatisations gets longer, the World Bank also needs to ask why its lending policies are not working for the poor."
Mr Benn will table his proposals for change at the World Bank’s annual meeting in Washington next month. A consultation paper, prepared with the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, heralds a potential rethink of the British aid policies under which DFID spent £9.5 million supporting privatisation in Tanzania.