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United Nations Environment Programme
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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

1.9.2 The constraints of governments and users

In many economies of the region, with the economic downtown which has been around for more than a decade, government subvention to the water sector has proved most inadequate even for operation and maintenance, not to mention capital for expansion of services to meet the needs of the exploding urban populations. For instance, in Ghana and Senegal, governments reneged on their commitments to, inter alia, increase tariffs and promptly pay bills of government and their parastatals. Botswana Water Utility Corporation (BWUC) charges commercially oriented tariffs; these tariffs were quickly adjusted in the past. Even in Botswana, problems have started to emerge as BWUC is finding it increasingly difficult to adjust its rates as required. There are obviously conflicting objectives that the government is tempted to pursue under this kind of arrangement which is short of giving full autonomy to the service agency.

The constraints which "tie" Egovernments' hands include their political sensitivity to the issue of cost recovery, which is interpreted into higher tariffs and greater efficiency. The citizens have been told for so long that the utility services, particularly water, is their birth right to have free, being a social good. It has therefore become difficult for succeeding regimes to reverse the situation without incurring the wrath of the citizens. There is of course the stark reality that the governments of these poor economies cannot provide adequate subsidies to meet O&M as promised. The utility agencies are therefore unable to provide adequate services. As users become dissatisfied, they become unwilling to pay for substandard services, and the services deteriorate further. Thus goes on the vicious cycle of deterioration. But then there is also the problem that the costs of some technologies e.g. sewerage system are unaffordable by many beneficiaries. This has been the case particularly in many states of Nigeria, in Ghana, Namibia, and a host of others in the region.

 

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