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The Buenos Aires water concession

Author

Listed:
  • Alcazar, Lorena
  • Abdala, Manuel A.
  • Shirley, Mary M.

Abstract

The signing of a concession contract for the Buenos Aires water and sanitation system in December 1992, attracted worldwide attention, and caused considerable controversy in Argentina. It was one of the world's largest concessions, but the case was also interesting for other reasons. The concession was implemented rapidly, in contrast with slow implementation of privatization in Santiago, for example. And reform generated major improvements in the sector, including wider coverage, better service, more efficient company operations, and reduced waste. Moreover, the winning bid brought an immediate 26.9 percent reduction in water system tariffs. Consumers benefited from the system's expansion and from the immediate drop in real prices, which was only partly reversed by subsequent changes in tariffs, and access charges. And these improvements would probably not have occurred under public administration of the system. Still, the authors show information asymmetries, perverse incentives, and weak regulatory institutions could threaten the concession's sustainability. Opportunities for the company to act opportunistically - and the regulator, arbitrarily - exist, because of politicized regulation, a poor information base, serious flaws in the concession contract, a lumpy and ad hoc tariff system, and a general lack of transparency in the regulatory process. Because of these circumstances, public confidence in the process has eroded. The Buenos Aires concession shows how important transparent, rule-based decision-making is to maintain public trust in regulated infrastructure.

Suggested Citation

  • Alcazar, Lorena & Abdala, Manuel A. & Shirley, Mary M., 2000. "The Buenos Aires water concession," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2311, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2311
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Clarke, George & Menard, Claude & Zuluaga, Ana Maria, 2000. "The welfare effects of private sector participation in Guinea's urban water supply," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2361, The World Bank.
    2. de Brux, Julie, 2010. "The Dark and Bright Sides of Renegotiation: An Application to Transport Concession Contracts," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 77-85, June.
    3. Sebastian Galiani & Martín González Rozada & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2007. "Expansiones de Agua en las Barriadas: Salud y Ahorros," Research Department Publications 3235, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    4. David Parker & Colin Kirkpatrick, 2005. "Privatisation in Developing Countries: A Review of the Evidence and the Policy Lessons," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(4), pages 513-541.
    5. Sebastian Galiani & Paul Gertler & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2005. "Water for Life: The Impact of the Privatization of Water Services on Child Mortality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 83-120, February.
    6. Kirkpatrick, Colin & Parker, David & Zhang, Yin-Fang, 2004. "State versus Private Sector Provision of Water Services in Africa: A Statistical, DEA and Stochastic Cost Frontier Analysis," Centre on Regulation and Competition (CRC) Working papers 30604, University of Manchester, Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM).
    7. Sebastian Galiani & Martin Gonzalez-Rozada & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2009. "Water Expansions in Shantytowns: Health and Savings," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(304), pages 607-622, October.
    8. Jensen, Olivia & Blanc-Brude, Frederic, 2006. "The handshake : why do governments and firms sign private sector participation deals ? Evidence from the water and sanitation sector in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3937, The World Bank.
    9. Antonio Estache & Liam Wren-Lewis, 2009. "Toward a Theory of Regulation for Developing Countries: Following Jean-Jacques Laffont's Lead," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(3), pages 729-770, September.
    10. Clarke, George R. G. & Menard, Claude & Maria Zuluaga, Ana, 2002. "Measuring the Welfare Effects of Reform: Urban Water Supply in Guinea," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1517-1537, September.
    11. 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, November.
    12. Wren-Lewis, Liam, 2013. "Commitment in utility regulation: A model of reputation and policy applications," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 210-231.
    13. Erika López Pontón, 2008. "Un criterio de eficiencia para la concepción y evaluación de las políticas públicas," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 10(18), pages 149-178, January-J.
    14. Kanazawa, Mark, 2006. "Investment in private water development: Property rights and contractual opportunism during the California Gold Rush," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 357-381, April.
    15. Di Tella, Rafael & Galiani, Sebastian & Schargrodsky, Ernesto, 2012. "Reality versus propaganda in the formation of beliefs about privatization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(5), pages 553-567.
    16. Matthias Finger & Rolf W. Künneke (ed.), 2011. "International Handbook of Network Industries," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 12961.
    17. Catarina Figueira & David Parker, 2011. "Infrastructure Liberalization: Challenges to the New Economic Paradigm in the Context of Developing Countries," Chapters,in: International Handbook of Network Industries, chapter 27 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. Solanes, Miguel & Jouravlev, Andrei, 2007. "Revisiting privatization, foreign investment, international arbitration, and water," Recursos Naturales e Infraestructura 129, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    19. Colin Kirkpatrick & David Parker, 2005. "Domestic Regulation and the WTO: The Case of Water Services in Developing Countries," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(10), pages 1491-1508, October.
    20. Kirkpatrick, Colin & Parker, David, 2004. "Regulation and the Privatisation of Water Services in Developing Countries: Assessing the Impact of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)," Centre on Regulation and Competition (CRC) Working papers 30600, University of Manchester, Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM).
    21. Solanes, Miguel & Jouravlev, Andrei, 2006. "Water governance for development and sustainability," Recursos Naturales e Infraestructura 111, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    22. Casarin, Ariel A. & Delfino, Jose A. & Delfino, Maria Eugenia, 2007. "Failures in water reform: Lessons from the Buenos Aires's concession," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 234-247, December.
    23. Clarke, George R.G. & Wallsten, Scott J., 2002. "Universal(ly bad) service - providing infrastructure services to rural and poor urban consumers," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2868, The World Bank.
    24. Antonio Estache & L. Wren-Lewis, 2008. "Towards a Theory of Regulation for Developing Countries: Following Laffont's Lead," Working Papers ECARES 2008_018, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

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