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Water, Health, and the Commodification Debate

Author

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  • Patrick Bond

    () (University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies, Durban, South Africa)

Abstract

Conflicts in the water sector are now well-known, and also increasingly researched by economists, particularly in relation to major ideological differences over state-run versus privatized municipal systems. A major dividing line is over how to access and sustain the financing required to expand and maintain municipal grids. In the context especially of third world urban processes, a crucial determinant is whether market-based pricing of water can generate health benefits to justify new capital investments. Such benefits have typically required strong public systems that offer adequate water supply (with sufficient proximity to source) at an affordable price. A variety of financial and fiscal pressures emerged since the 1980s, leaving full cost recovery as the core practice required by international aid agencies, multilateral financiers, and multinational corporations. Those firms were attracted by high potential profits which, ultimately, could not be realized (in part because of currency deterioration and profit repatriation problems), and hence systems were not maintained or expanded, and health benefits not realized. As commodification of water spread during the era of globalization, so too did an international civil society network demanding---and often winning--- decommodification of water and deglobalization of water-capital, returning service delivery to local public institutions, often on grounds of improved public health.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Bond, 2010. "Water, Health, and the Commodification Debate," Review of Radical Political Economics, Union for Radical Political Economics, vol. 42(4), pages 445-464, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:reorpe:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:445-464
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    Cited by:

    1. Dan Brockington, 2012. "A Radically Conservative Vision? The Challenge of UNEP's Towards a Green Economy," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 43(1), pages 409-422, January.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    commodification; conditionalities; water; health;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H44 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Publicly Provided Goods: Mixed Markets
    • L95 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Gas Utilities; Pipelines; Water Utilities
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water

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