Say goodbye to another private-water failure

And this time, it’s Guyana giving a multinational firm the boot.

Severn Trent is exiting Guyana after the government said it was failing to meet its targets for the supply of water to the South American country.

Severn International’s contract was due to end at the start of 2008 but is being terminated nearly one year early.


Harry Nawbatt, Guyana’s water minister, said this was due to the firm’s failure to meet targets, such as increasing the amount of money raised from water bills.


Guyana is one of Latin America’s poorest countries and its economy was badly damaged by 2005’s floods. More than 40% of the population lost some or all of their possessions.

And yet this company’s priority was not making sure the poor had safe, affordable water for all their needs. What was it? Collecting money.

This company wasn’t in the business of supplying water, but rather denying it. Is it any wonder they’re now on the way out? This is not what I call improving on an “inefficient” public service. Neither is how this company got its hooks into Guyana’s water in the first place.

IMF conditionalities have long been a quick route to profit for multinational firms. The steady drumbeat of “the private sector can do it better”, however, is breaking up under the growing chorus of “Oh no it can’t!” and “We’re taking our public services back!”

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