Year

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Humanities and Social Inquiry

Abstract

The tactics of water privatization are examined through three case study cities in the global south, Cochabamba, Manila, and New Delhi. Each city’s publicly-managed water system was targeted by predatory international financial institutions and their multi-national corporate supporters. Profit taking from provision of water services, using existing publicly built infrastructure, in countries struggling with neoliberal ideological interpretations of development and economic growth was justified by the claim that there was no alternative. This study of tactics shows how attempts were made to normalize the privatization of water. The publics’ responses to privatization tactics are examined for different aspects of the process undertaken in each case study city.

Water privatization in the global south is a process that engages a range of key players in the promotion and defence of their beliefs about the value of freshwater as a resource. These beliefs span identifying water as a commodity with an economic value and as a cultural asset with a spiritual value. The control of this resource, through either private or public management, has become a site of contention often informed by these beliefs. The privatization of infrastructure and former publicly-run essential services has sometimes met with resistance.

Outrage management tactics examined within each city include covering up information, the use of official channels, devaluation of advocates supporting public provision of essential services, reinterpretation of potential outcomes from privatization and intimidation. Those struggling to embed water privatization as the only way are shown to use most of these tactics as well as strategic timing and collusion. In Manila where there was no obvious resistance to privatization, an illusion of government transparency was used along with some of the outrage management tactics. Whilst there were differences in responses in each city, scarcity of water underpinned justification for privatization of water utilities.

Awareness of the tactics used or not used by those claiming there is no alternative to privatization may assist groups promoting alternatives in the future.

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