Lagos Water Privatization: US lawmaker condemns World Bank’s role

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A United States lawmaker has raised concerns over the World Bank’s role in funding and promoting water privatization across? the world.

Gwen Moore (Representative, Wisconsin?) in a letter to the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, stated that the Bank’s lending arm, the International Finance Corporation, had not adequately monitored the conflicts of interest created when it takes equity stake in water corporations.

“I am increasingly uneasy with water resource privatization in developing countries and do not believe that the current ring-fencing policies separating the investment and advising functions of the IFC are adequate?,” said Moore, a Ranking Member of the Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.

“I would respectfully urge the WBG and IFC to cease promoting and funding privatization of water resources, including so-called ‘public-private partnerships’ (PPPs) in the water sector, until there has been a robust outside evaluation of the IFC’s conflicts policy and practices and an opportunity for additional congressional hearings on the subject.”

Last month, dozens of women marched around Lagos protesting a purported plan by the state government to privatize the public water works.

The state government, however, said it was ?only reforming the water corporation.

In her letter, dated April 12th, Ms. Moore said the IFC’s involvement in the large-scale privatization of water in Manila, Philippines, was an “improper mingling” of its advisory and investment functions.

“The implications of this conflict go beyond Manila, as the IFC has promoted the Manila case as a flagship model to be emulated around the world, ‘including in Africa,’ where it has led to IFC advisory contracts in Benin and Mozambique? and informed a widely opposed privatization scheme in Lagos, Nigeria,” the lawmaker said.

“It is therefore important that the WBG address my concerns and take a renewed evaluation and analysis of its conflicts policy.

“For these reasons, I would urge the WBG, including the IFC, to cease promoting privatization of water resources until there has been a robust outside evaluation of the IFC conflicts policy and practices.”?

In 2014, a Nigerian environment advocacy group, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) launched a campaign ‘Our Water, Our Right,’ aimed at halting the Lagos State government’s planned privatization of water infrastructure.

But the state government continually defended its position, insisting that it was engaging the private sector in a Public-Private Partnership arrangement?.

Ms. Moore’s letter to the World Bank comes amidst calls by ERA/FoEN to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to publicly declare its stand on the controversial PPP in the water sector, which the World Bank said it cancelled following pressures from civil society and labour groups.

“Rep Moore’s correspondence is not only timely, it also captures the very questionable role played by the World Bank in denying the largest segment of society which cannot pay the fundamental right to a free gift of nature,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN’s Deputy Director.

“We insist that the Lagos government reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit and develop a comprehensive plan for achieving universal access to clean water in the state.

“This must be done in concert and with the full consent of the people. PPPs are not democratically designed. They are unacceptable.”

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