Water safe from privatisation for now – El Salvador

Reproduced from CISPES news item. CISPES is the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. – April 2, 2014.

picWith the ink barely dry on the State Department’s commitments to work with the incoming administration of Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the leftist Farabundo Martí Liberation Front (FMLN), US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte continues her crusade for privatization policy, intervening in El Salvador’s legislative affairs to promote corporate interests. Aponte has taken up lobbying efforts to urge the Legislative Assembly to approve reforms to the US-backed Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law, conditioning US development aid on the passage of the reforms package. The Ambassador insists the reforms are necessary to invest the pending $277 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funds, claiming El Salvador’s investment conditions “are not totally mature yet.”

The P3 Law, which was originally drafted with US government advisors, opens up public projects to private concessions. The proposed reforms would reverse several elements that FMLN legislators had managed to include in the final bill to ensure it did not trigger a privatization free-for-all of essential public services. Presented by legislators from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party last December, the reforms are based on a proposal by the National Council for Growth, a body created by the US-El Salvador bilateral economic agreement, the Partnership for Growth, that joins government representatives with the country’s wealthiest businessmen.

At a March 24 forum hosted by the Legislative Assembly, representatives of the broad-based social movement coalition the Water Forum and FMLN legislators expressed fierce opposition to a reform that would make water vulnerable to private concessions after the FMLN had successfully excluded it from the P3 Law. “The FMLN is not in favor of privatizing our fundamental services,” said legislator Orestes Ortez of the leftist party.

Intent on passing the reforms as soon as possible, the Council for Growth unveiled a reduced list of recommended reforms the next day, abandoning plans to bring water back into the realm of possible concessions. The surviving reforms aim to minimize public debate around concessions and speed up their approval. One would change the current P3 legislation, which requires the Assembly first approve the terms of bidding and then approve the final contract, so that concessions would only require a one-stop legislative approval. Another would put supervision of the concessions into the hands of the president’s Investment and Exports Promotion Agency (PROESA), rather than an autonomous oversight body in the Ministry of the Economy. A third reform would increase the limit on how much debt the State can incur from any one concession from 1% of the nation’s GDP to 3%. FMLN legislator Lorena Peña pointed out that 1% of the GDP is already $245 million, nearly the same amount as the entire MCC project ($277 million).

The US Embassy’s shameless intervention in the Legislative Assembly’s affairs make the US’s true foreign policy aims all the more transparent. Ambassador Aponte is forcing legislation on the country to ensure that MCC funds are easily diverted into the pocket of private, transnational corporations, granting them greater access to El Salvador’s public services in the future, regardless of the party in power. As Aponte recently affirmed the Obama administration’s willingness to work with the incoming FMLN administration, she emphasized the need to advance bilateral programs “not only for the benefit of El Salvador, but also for the benefit of the United States,” but her latest actions seem to indicate that the primary beneficiary will be, as ever, a transnational corporate elite.

Chapter 3: The Water Crisis

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that water scarcity is “a potent fuel for wars”[i], and Fred Pearce has described water as “rapidly becoming one of the defining crises of the 21st century.”[ii] Both are fearful of the consequences of the development of water shortages, whether caused by over-use, climate change, conflict or competition. Physically, however, Central America is blessed with plentiful rainfall and well-supplied hydrographic basins.

Key words:
Human right to water | Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) | Water-borne diseases | Improved sanitation | Improved provision of water | Sewage treatment | Privatisation | Private sector investment | Public-Public Partnerships (PUPs) | Water pollution | Pesticide contamination

[i]   UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon cited in World Development Movement (WDM) campaign document (29 November 2007) ‘Water and Conflict’, London, WDM.
[ii]   Fred Pearce cited in World Development Movement (WDM) campaign document (29 November 2007) ‘Water and Conflict’, London, WDM.

Coca Cola’s ‘replenish’ goal

coca-cola-2-liter-botle-114x300In 2007, the Chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, E. Neville Isdell, pledged “to return the water we use in our beverages and their production; to achieve balance in communities and in nature with the water we use.”[1] The company expressed a wish to recycle water, reduce water use and replenish water in communities. As a result, Coca-Cola has invested in over 100 Community Watershed Partnership projects in 49 countries, including El Salvador.[2]

In 2008, the Coca-Cola Company provided a grant of $60,000 to the ‘recovery of the watershed that supplies the San Antonio River’ project in Nejapa.[3] This project aims to contribute to the protection of water resources in the Nejapa area, and to generate income for the inhabitants. The project will clean water sources, reforest 8,000 native trees and teach local people how to cultivate crops without using chemicals.[4]

It is expected that 100 people will benefit directly from this programme, and a further 400 will indirectly benefit from environmental improvements. The company’s track record has included such promises in the past. Local people who stand to benefit from the watershed recovery programme are hopeful that these promises will not be left unfulfilled this time.

[1] The Coca-Cola Company (2008) ‘Replenish’ Report: Achieving Water Balance through Community Water Partnerships, The Coca-Cola Company, http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/citizenship/pdf/cwp_011608.pdf (Accessed 20/09/2010).
[2] Ibid.
[3] The Coca-Cola Company (2008) Corporate Contributions and Grants Paid, The Coca-Cola Company, http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/citizenship/pdf/2008_grants_contributions_paid.pdf (Accessed 20/09/2010).
[4] SABMiller (2009) Nejapa’s inhabitants benefit from San Antonio River conservation project, SABMiller, http://www.sabmiller.com/index.asp?pageid=149&newsid=969 (Accessed 02/09/2010).

World Bank water project

World Bank gives $30M for water project

Report by: Nicaragua Dispatch

12-300x174In celebration of World Water Day, the World Bank today announced a new $30 million project to bring potable water and sewage services to 85 rural municipalities in Nicaragua.

The sustainable water project, funded by $14.3 million in World Bank loans and $15.7 million in grants, will provide basic water and sewage service to 52,000 Nicaraguans over the next five years.

In Nicaragua, only 68% of the rural population has access to drinking water, and only 37% have access to sewage treatment, according to the World Bank. The government claims the percentage of those with access to drinking water in the urban households is slightly higher — around 84%. But in a country of daily water rationing in many poor neighborhoods, government statistics on access to drinking water are notoriously unreliable (in 2007, Ruth Selma Herrera, then-head of the state-owned Nicaraguan Water and Sewage Company, had to adjust the official statistics from 90% coverage to around 70% coverage after discovering just how inflated the government numbers were).

Maura Madriz Paladino, director of the water program for the Alexander von Humboldt Center, a non-governmental organization specializing in environmental issues, told The Nicaragua Dispatch last year that her organization surveyed Nicaraguan homes in 2011 and found that 80% of Nicaragua’s population doesn’t receive the quantity or quality of water it needs—a situation she qualified as “alarming.”

“We can’t determine who has access to drinking water by looking at the number of people who have plumbing in their homes, but in Managua a22-300x270lone there are lots of homes that have pipes in the walls but no water in the pipes,” Madriz said. “We need to talk about the percentage of people who actually have potable water available to them in the quantity and quality to satisfy their basic needs.”

Says Herrera, the problem in Nicaragua is not the amount of water, but the quality.

“We are a country rich in contaminated water resources,” she said this morning in an interview on a local radio station Café con Voz.