This is a very rough draft for the Georgetown SFS essay. Any comments are greatly appreciated :)Briefly discuss a current global issue, indicating why you consider it important and what you suggest should be done to deal with it.
It is said that in the next century water will become the new oil. Water is the most essential resource for humankind, yet access is becoming more limited as water consumption increases. Water related conflicts between nations with shared river basins, like India and Pakistan and Jordan and Syria, will become more prevalent as countries look to sustain burgeoning populations and economies. The efficient management of water supply will be increasingly important for nations that wish to maintain stable economies and governments. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have encouraged the privatization of the water supply as efficient, reliable, and affordable water management. But will private companies be able to provide efficient water management so as to maintain growing economies and stable governments?
Many nations lack the financial reserves to pay for infrastructure to support water delivery, so they turn to private companies, like Bechtel, Suez, and United Water, to shoulder the costs of construction. After privatization, these companies have a monopoly on water management and often ignore affordability to focus on profitability. For example, in Bolivia, Bechtel increased the amount of piped water by 22%, but water prices soared to 20% of a family's monthly income. Although increases in the availability of water encourage businesses to invest in the country, lower class workers will never be able to rise above poverty into the middle class because they are burdened by exorbitant water rates. This creates a social turmoil as lower classes struggle to pay for water, while wealthier citizens and businesses remain unaffected. This clash of classes leads to riots and strikes protesting water prices which can result in the company withdrawing from water management and can discourage further investment in the country. Although for a short time economic productivity was increased due to the availability of water, protests by lower classes over privatization and excessive water rates discourage investment.
When nations privatize the water supply, they can take the money that would have been spent on management and infrastructure and invest it elsewhere. The government would seek to improve the lives of its citizens by spending money building roads, attracting investors, or providing for the welfare of citizens. However, as soon as private company raises water prices the stability of the government would suffer. The social unrest caused by an increase in water prices could force a government to take military action, as in Bolivia where martial law had to be declared after a string of violent protests over water rates. If the complaints of the protesters are not addressed then they could turn to militaristic groups or a radical leader so that their voices are heard. This would destabilize a government as it sought to control these threats and complaints instead of focusing on the well-being of the state. Perhaps if these militaristic groups or a radical leader would come to power it could threaten the security of a region and result in larger conflicts over water management.
Private companies concerned with profits would cause too much social unrest to be efficient, but as any global issue the solution is not so easy as to let the government control water management. Often governments are corrupt or the spoils system prevents a knowledgeable official from leading water management. I believe that no private company should completely control a water supply because water is not a commodity it is an essential resource. Instead of encouraging privatization the World Bank and IMF should supply loans to help improve water infrastructure. Also national governments should take a more active role in managing and regulating the water supply if there is a private company controlling the water supply. If the government is in charge of water management there should be a promotion of efficiency. Or perhaps a set of international standards on water management that guarantees access to all and provides for efficient management.