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Irish Water flooded us with scandals before delivering a single drop of water

People of Ireland have already been robbed of millions of Euro for the privatization of water and the establishment of the Irish Water company. Before Irish Water has delivered even a single drop of clean-safe water, they have flooded us with scandals that continue to cost us millions. For health, education, public transport, even fixing the old and leaking water system there is no money - as we are told repeatedly - but there are millions available for some dodgy consultancy services to tell Irish Water how to rob our free-natural resource from us and how to charge us for this robbery.

We don’t need expensive company logos designed by marketing consultants to figure out how important water is to us.

We don’t want million Euro public relations campaigns for water but we need clean-safe water that is freely available and properly and democratically managed.

We don’t want consultancy firms - who were also involved in bank bailout decisions that caused suffering to the majority of the people in this country - to tell us how we operate our water system.

Here is a good free advice to the government - without any consultancy fees: Fix the wasteful old water pipes, create meaningful and valuable jobs to fix the water infrastructure and eliminate the ongoing loss of clean water.

We don’t have to fund a silly company which employs people and without even being fully operational seeks voluntary redundancies. The wages of the people employed and the payments for redundancies are all costs that we the people have to pick up.

Labour Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbite said, “The Government was “railroaded by the Troika” into setting up Irish Water too early […] The Troika tried to “force” setting up Uisce Éireann in 18 months, which was too short, and that public money could have been saved if the utility company was given more time to establish itself”. [i]

We don’t have to put up with a government party, the Labour Party, that now cries about how they were bullied by the Troika to setup Irish Water but forgets their promises and lies before the elections.  Pat Rabbite’s statement is a clear and undeniable admission of the uselessness of the Labour Party in the government and how they have betrayed the people of this country and wasted millions of our public funds. People did not vote for them to cry after it is too late but to stand by the promises they have made before the elections.

We can survive without many things we use today and take them for granted but the same is not true for our water.

According to the World Bank predictions by 2025, nearly two-thirds of countries will be water-stressed and 2.4 billion people will face absolute water scarcity. This is on top Oxfam’s estimate of 85 richest people in the world having more wealth than 3.5 billion people. No wonder that Fortune Magazine describes water as “Water will be to the 21st Century what oil was to the 20th”. During the 20thcentury and beyond oil made billions of profit for multinational corporations, and now water has a similar potential for hungry profit-makers of the world.

World Bank, IMF, Fortune Magazine and similar organizations constantly push the idea of water being an essential input to industries and that it needs to be properly (privately) managed. This, in turn is used to manufacture the argument that water is a commodity, and therefore, it should be managed, distributed and ‘sold’ according to the rules of ‘market economy’. The fact that water is one of the most important human rights and that, rich or poor, human race cannot survive without access to clean and fresh water is pushed aside while the debates on commercialising and selling water goes on.

However much a free-natural resource, water is becoming increasingly a class issue where the rich of the world want to own and sell it to anyone who can afford it while the taps of the poor will run dry. 

International Forum on Globalization describes the global situation as follows:

“A CRITICAL QUESTION TO BE ADDRESSED at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) fifth ministerial in Cancun [2003] is who will control the world’s dwindling water supply. Will the WTO expand corporate control of water granting access based on who can afford it? Or, will water be declared a basic human right and a public trust, guaranteed to all in need? Citizens’ movements around the world are joining forces in Cancun to declare water a basic human right outside of the WTO’s authority”.[ii]

The above report was published 10 years ago. Since then the appetite of the multinational corporations to get their hands onto public water in different countries has increased and organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, the EU and national governments are doing their best to force the privatization agenda. We see this clearly in Ireland as the government seize the opportunity of Troika program to implement the privatization of water using public funds invested into the newly founded Irish Water company.  

No wonder the CEO of Nestle says that water is not a human right but a product that needs to be sold and bought. Who sells it? Nestlé… Who has to buy it? Us, the people… Whose resource is it? Our resource, the people’s resource… Who makes the profits? Nestlé’s CEO for his shareholders…

We, the people know the value of water. We don’t waste it beyond our essential needs. What about the multinationals operating in Africa, India, Asia, taking away the fresh water sources from the people and causing man-made disasters and suffering, do they know about these and what purpose do they use the fresh water in those countries?

International Forum on Globalization describes the problem as, “worldwide, the consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, at more than twice the rate of the increase in human population. According to the United Nations, by the year 2025, as much as two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in conditions of serious water shortage and one-third will be living in conditions of absolute water scarcity. For this reason, the vice-president of the World Bank has said, “the wars of the next century will be about water.

Where most people see a humanitarian crisis requiring immediate changes in consumption patterns, conservation, environmental protections, and distribution, corporations see enormous profits. As one Canadian water privatization company, Global Water Corporation, has said, “water has moved from being an endless commodity that may be taken for granted to a rationed necessity that may be taken by force.

Multinational corporations are using the WTO to increase their control over water by: (1) privatizing water services; (2) reducing the ability of governments to regulate corporate activity; and (3) exporting water to sell for a profit.[iii]

The only goal of any private company is to maximize its profits for its shareholders. Side effects of this objective, such as creating employment are only a means to achieve this goal. Maximising profits is achieved in many ways available to these companies. Some of these are (1) Reduction of costs in terms of cutting workers’ wages and terms and conditions; (2) reducing essential controls and measures for quality and safety; and (3) controlling and increasing prices. Selling water is not any different to other things they sell. There is nothing different in the business of water, except the lack of safety, unavailability and high prices will be a huge direct negative impact to our society.

Let us refer to some examples from around the world to see what happens when water is privatized and sold by private companies.

GREAT BRITAIN [Between 1989 – 1995 when water was privatised]
Price increases: 106 percent
Profits increased by companies: 692 percent
Social impact: As a result of these price hikes, literally twice as many households had their water cut-off after privatization as were cut-off before
Job losses: The private companies fired almost 25 percent of the work force, approximately 100,000
Health and safety: Between 1989 and 1997, five British water privatization companies were found guilty of 128 environmental offences.

BOLIVIA:
Price increases: After privatizing the water systems in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1999, Aguas del Tunari, a subsidiary of the Bechtel Corporation, implemented massive price hikes. Families earning a minimum wage of $60 per month suddenly faced water bills of $20 per month. Rate increases of 100 percent were the most common, while increases of 300 percent were reported.

SOUTH AFRICA:
Price Increases and social impact: After the World Bank forced KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa to privatize its water, those who were too poor to pay were simply cut off.
Health and safety: People were then forced to resort to using polluted river water, resulting in an outbreak of cholera that has claimed at least 32 lives. In fact, due to privatization and other forces, cholera outbreaks affecting more than 140,000 people occurred in South Africa between the years 2000 and 2002.

Conclusions:

The commercialisation of water and the setting up of the Irish Water company has been a huge problem from the very beginning. Irish Water has already created a costly burden on our public funds and it has caused huge anger among the people.

The government cannot use the excuse of Troika to continue the project of privatising and charging for water. It has to stop the Irish Water project and instead create a public works programme to fix our old water infrastructure. This is the only action to take if the government claims to aim to save water wastage and tackle any future water shortage.

Water charges will be driven by the profit ambitions and targets and not by a proper democratic, need basis management.

The poor people will be hit the most by the water charges. It is not a progressive charge. Irish Water will continuously manipulate the prices to achieve the target profits. People who can’t pay their water bills will be left without running water.

Irish Water will be an ongoing problem for the people of Ireland. It will be open to all sorts of price speculations.

There are many proven and effective methods to preserver water that will benefit the whole society. Charging for water does not guarantee a reduction in water wastage.

If what the banks did before the financial crash 5 years ago would happen in Irish Water, i.e. the wild, profit oriented speculation and financial gambling, it will not be our jobs or our homes at risk, it will be our health and our lives. Any profit driven short-cuts on water quality and safety will have disastrous impact on our lives.

Water charges will be a major issue at the next local elections in Ireland and the government parties will be punished for their actions.

We need to build local and national campaigns against the water charges and reject paying for our free natural resources. Water is too valuable and important to be handed over to companies that are only interested in profit making.

[i] The Irish Times

[ii] http://www.ifg.org/pdf/cancun/issues-WTOwater.pdf

[iii] Ibid

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