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Designing pro-poor water and sewer concessions : early lessons from Bolivia


  • Komives, Kristin


The Bolivian government awarded a concession for water and sewer services in La Pazand El Alto in 1997. One goal of doing so was to expand in-house water and sewer service to low-income households. The author uses the Aguas del Illimani case to explore how the design of typical concession agreements (with monopoly private service suppliers) can affect outcomes in poor neighborhoods. She finds that outcomes in services can be affected by the concession contracts, by the contract bid process, by sector regulations, and by regulatory arrangements. To increase the likelihood of improvements in low-income areas, policymakers should: a) Make contract objectives clear and easily measurable. b) Eliminate policy barriers to serving the poor (including property title requirements and service boundaries that exclude poor neighborhoods). c) Design financial incentives consistent with service expansion or improved objectives for low-income areas. Contracts are subject to negotiation, so expansion or connection mandates alone do not guarantee that concessionaires will serve poor areas. Provisions and standards that reduce service options (for example, requirements that eliminate all alternatives to in-house connections) or restrict the emergence of new service providers (for example, granting exclusivity in the service area) could do more harm than good. In two years of operation, Aguas del Illimani met its first expansion mandate and tool many steps to facilitate income areas. The company and the Bolivian water regulator were willing to discuss and seek possible solutions to problems associated with servicing poor neighborhoods. It is too early to tell whether these gains will be sustainable or to predict how privatization will ultimately affect poor households in La Paz and El Alto.

Suggested Citation

  • Komives, Kristin, 1999. "Designing pro-poor water and sewer concessions : early lessons from Bolivia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2243, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2243

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Klein, Michael, 1996. "Economic regulation of water companies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1649, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hailu, Degol & Osorio, Rafael Guerreiro & Tsukada, Raquel, 2012. "Privatization and Renationalization: What Went Wrong in Bolivia’s Water Sector?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(12), pages 2564-2577.
    2. Philippe Marin, 2009. "Public-Private Partnerships for Urban Water Utilities : A Review of Experiences in Developing Countries," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2703.
    3. Komives, Kristin & Halpern, Jonathan & Foster, Vivien & Wodon, Quentin & Abdullah, Roohi, 2006. "The distributional incidence of residential water and electricity subsidies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3878, The World Bank.


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