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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 December 5 - 11  > Upper House committee passes bill on water privatization
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2018 December 5 - 11 [POLITICS]

Upper House committee passes bill on water privatization

December 5 and 6, 2018

The House of Councilors Health and Welfare Committee on December 4 passed a bill to promote the privatization of water supply services with a majority vote of the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komei parties while the Japanese Communist Party and three other opposition parties voted against the bill.

Prior to the vote, JCP Kurabayashi Akiko used her question time to oppose the bill. She cited a survey indicating that during the 15 years from 2000 to 2015, as many as 235 privatized water service projects in 37 countries were put back under the control of public entities. Kurabayashi pointed out that the growing trend in the world is the return to public management of water supply.

As an example, Kurabayashi took up the case of the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta. The city decided to reacquire a water service operation from a private operator after the supreme court in 2017 ruled in favor of Jakarta citizens who had complained about excessively expensive water charges and insufficient investment in infrastructure under the for-profit water service provider. Kurabayashi said that the lesson of recent developments is that water is a human right and thus the access to safe, clean water should be ensured by the public sector.

Kurabayashi said that due to the central government’s extreme “administrative reforms”, the workforce in water utilities across the country shrunk by 40% in the last four decades, which made it difficult for remaining workers to deal with natural disasters if they occur and maintain the quality of service. Saying that the privatization will not change the situation, the JCP lawmaker urged the government to revise its policy of slashing the number of water utility workers.

* * *

The bill concerning water privatization was railroaded through the House of Councilors on December 5. The Liberal Democratic Party, Komei Party, and “Nippon Ishin no Kai” supported the bill and the Japanese Communist Party and three other opposition parties were opposed to the bill.

Before the bill was put to the vote at a House plenary meeting, Kurabayashi took the rostrum and argued against the bill, saying that a number of privatized water services in the world turned out to be dismal failures. She explained that in Berlin, Germany, the city government regained control over the privatized water service system as the for-profit operator rejected the city’s request to lower water charges. In order to do this, she added, the city had to pay damages for breach of contract. Kurabayashi stressed, “What privatization guarantees is profit for private entities.”

Past related articles:
> Public water service is vital to safeguard people’s right to water [September 22, 2018]
> Opposition parties oppose water privatization [July 6, 2018]

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