Tax funded water for women in Africa

Reclaiming Public Water is a contribution to the long overdue refocusing of the global water debate on the key questions: What needs to happen from the local to the global level, to improve and expand public water and sanitation around the world?

The disastrous privatization wave of the 1990s has made clear that the water needs of the poor should not be left in the hands of profit-driven, transnational corporations.  In cities around the world, global water Corporations have failed to deliver the promised improvements and have, instead, raised water tariffs far beyond the reach of the poor households.

Challenging the neoliberal prejudices of governments and international financial institutions, my presentation will presents a wide range of concrete examples from around Africa of how urban and rural public water delivery can be improved through democratic utility reforms, such as the introduction of comprehensive forms of citizens’ participation. It also draws on the rich experiences of anti –privatization coalitions and their visions on making public water work to affect the lives of women.

We claim that water is a public good but it should be a right for all.  It is therefore, a public affair and an essential public service.  To say that is a good thing (not everyone gets this far) but to actually do it, debate it, and act on it is better.

Challenging the neoliberal prejudices of governments and international financial institutions, my presentation will presents a wide range of concrete examples from around Africa of how urban and rural public water delivery can be improved through democratic utility reforms, such as the introduction of comprehensive forms of citizens’ participation. It also draws on the rich experiences of anti –privatization coalitions and their visions on making public water work to affect the lives of women.

We claim that water is a public good but it should be a right for all.  It is therefore, a public affair and an essential public service.  To say that is a good thing (not everyone gets this far) but to actually do it, debate it, and act on it is better.

Taxation, which is one entry point for improving governance on the continent, has received little attention over the years. Tax revenues are relatively low in most countries in Africa. It has been neglected in development discourses with more focus being given to external resources.

The challenge around domestic mobilization of resources has not been fully discussed. Raising additional tax revenue is further constrained by weak state legitimacy, as taxes have often not translated into improvements in public service delivery. For sustainable growth and poverty reduction to take place in African countries, it is essential that a coherent, dynamic and domestically driven capital accumulation, intermediation and mobilization process take root.

Tax is not only about revenue, but also about accountability and democratization. Citizens need to feel they have the right to get services from government, it’s not a privilege.

Tax Justice is about development, Social Justice and fighting inequality. The need to move away from AID and mobilize resources for development has become imperative to African governments. Trade Unions have identified tax justice campaign and advocacy as a very important tool to highlight the need for tax justice to fund public services, provide social protection and the proven value of these services in addressing inequality. The focus is not only on mobilization of revenues for public services but for democratization, fair allocation and distribution.

What are the challenges that we face?

  • Despite water covering over 70% of the planet, yet safe drinking water covers only 3%.
  • Over a billion people do not have safe and clean water to drink
  • Infrastructure to deliver safe and clean water to the communities to improve the life of women
  • Use of unsafe water leading to women suffering from diarrhea and other water related diseases
  •  Most women in Africa spend long hours in search of water
  • Clean and safe water is expensive for most Africans 

What do we need to do?

  • Reject all forms of water privatization and commodification.
  • Revise all water sector laws that promotes PPP
  • Make adequate budgetary allocations to the water sector
  • Fully uphold the human right to water as an obligation of the governments in Africa, representing the people.
  • Integrate broad public participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water
  • Reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by International Finance Corporation (IFC), which operates to maximize private profit.
  • Disclose all IFC and World Bank activity and discussions with African government officials regarding water, including formal and informal advisory roles.
  • Build the political will to prioritize water for the people, therefore leading to a comprehensive plan that invests in the water infrastructure necessary to provide universal water access, which will create jobs, improve public health, and invigorate the economy for the better life of women in general.
  • We urge national governments to take necessary action to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water for all. Several other global bodies like the   Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, have recognized water as human rights.
  • Opposing privatization is essential. However, we must stand for strong public services that are transparent, accountable and participatory. It is unacceptable that Africa as a continent is unable to ensure universal access to water supply and sanitation services.

We will continue our campaign to ensure that all levels of governments deliver on their commitments and their obligations to Africans in all, to implement the human right to water and sanitation, to invest our common resources in a transparent and corruption-free manner.

Again it is recommended that water remain in public control, urging the African governments to support its campaign to get the governments to reject all forms of water privatization and commodification; reject contracts designed by, involving, or influenced by the IFC, which operates to maximize private profit, while fully upholding the human right to water as an obligation of the government representing the people and to lessen the burden on women and children.

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