The Italian Job : are Europeans turning their back on water privatisation?

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According to the 1969 film, The Italian Job, Mini Cooper cars run through the sewer network of Turin to escape from the police. It appears however, that the people of Italy seem to want their government -- not private companies – running those pipes. 


On June 12-13, the Italian people voted in a referendum with four questions. One was about immunity of sitting politicians from prosecution and one was about nuclear energy. The other two referenda which were less scintillating to the media, related to privatization water supply and sanitation. An overwhelming ninety-six percent voted to repeal a law that requires an increasing share of local public services be entrusted to the private sector and another that allowed tariffs to provide for a 7% return on capital invested by the operator. Are the Italians turning their backs on Private Public Partnerships(PPPs) in water? They have seen tariff increases and but noted a varied quality of service across the country which has been unpopular. But PPPs are still possible. They’re just no longer required by law. 

There are no movies about loveable rogues in small cars driving through the sewers of Paris.  Yet France has seen a similar retreat from private sector water and sanitation services. The city of Paris returned water services to the public sector after almost 25 years of private operation, saying that public service will provide better services and lower cost, and make prices more stable. The future of the PPP model in water is facing dynamic changes in both the developing and the developed world. 


Related Reading:

Local Financing of Water Utilities : Challenges and Opportunities - the Case of Peru


Public-Private Partnerships for Urban Water Utilities: A Review of Experiences in Developing Countries


Water, Electricity and the Poor: Who Benefits from Utility Subsidies?


The World Bank Water Site


Julia Bucknall

Director for Environment and Natural Resources

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