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Neoliberal water and sanitation policies as a failed development strategy: Lessons from developing countries

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Esteban CastroORCiD


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This paper examines key aspects of the policies promoting the expansion of private multinational monopolies as the main tool to solve the problems affecting water and sanitation services in less developed countries. It is based on recent findings from research carried out on the impact of these policies in nine countries of Africa, Europe, and Latin America. The article argues that the main claims put forward to justify these policies, that private sector participation provides the financial resources needed to improve the situation in developing countries and that these policies contribute to reduce social inequality in these countries, are not supported by the empirical evidence. The findings suggest that the international community cannot rely on private sector participation for achieving the development goals for water and sanitation, particularly in the poorer countries. The paper concludes that there is a need to learn from the past, when developed countries managed to achieve the universalization of essential services thanks to the convergence of a wide range of social and political forces, including free-market liberals, who accepted that essential services cannot be organized purely on market principles. It suggests that achieving similar success in LDCs will also require the amalgamation of a similarly broad and universalistic ensemble of social forces. © 2008 SAGE Publications.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Castro JE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Progress in Development Studies

Year: 2008

Volume: 8

Issue: 1

Pages: 63-83

ISSN (print): 1464-9934

ISSN (electronic): 1477-027X


DOI: 10.1177/146499340700800107


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