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Opinions of Thursday, 22 August 2002

Columnist: Gbamu, Judas

What is really going on with water privatization.... Ghana?
There is an interesting but very relevant event happening in Ghana today. We have heard the Kuffour government mention the issue of water privatization on several occasions in the news.

Most of us may not know what the details of the water privatization deal is. In fact, some of us may even wonder why it is important to bother about government business concerning water privatization in the first place.

Well, it turns out that water is a very important resource. Clean, fresh drinking water is already becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world. It will undoubtedly be a very important resource in the future. Drinking water is almost as important as the air we breathe and arguably more important than the food we eat. Anyone who controls our water has power over the way we live.

So, it appears that Clare Short told the government of Ghana that it will get aid money for a major water project only if it effectively privatizes the water supply, allowing British and other multinational companies to take over these resources. As I write this, a British multinational company has indeed been given the project!

What is wrong with multinational companies controlling the water people drink and use in Ghana? The answer is simple. The number one priority of any multinational company is to make profit. The welfare of its clients is guaranteed only if it is in line with the profit making ideals of the multinational company. This means that poor people who cannot afford to pay for clean drinking water may not have access to it, even though they have the right to it.

Now this may not be the entire story. Maybe the multinational company that will control access to water in Ghana will really improve the infrastructure of the water industry in the country. Maybe they will give poor people water. But what if they do not? Who will they be accountable to? The government may not be able to influence the policies of multinational companies since they are autonomous. I do not know the details of the deal -- I am just asking questions. I think this is a very important issue we should all pay attention to, and discuss. I urge the government of Ghana to come out and explain to the people of Ghana, what exactly is going with the water privatization deal.

John Pilger says that when the present government of Ghana was in opposition, it spoke out against foreign companies monopolizing water. If this is true, then yet another promise has been broken and the government of Ghana has to answer to the people.

For more information, please take the time to read the articles at these sites:

Clare Short is the Secretary of State for International Development in Tony Blair's government. She is a member of various committees including a ministerial committee on intelligence established to give advanced warning of coup attempts and civil war in sub-Saharan Africa.

John Pilger is a renowned journalist and documentary film-maker. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines, and newspapers such as the Daily Mirror, The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation: New York, The Age: Melbourne, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin: Sydney, plus French, Italian, Scandinavian, Canadian, Japanese and other newspapers and periodicals. His most recent book is The New Rulers of the World.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.