by Orsan Senalp, TNI - Yesterday TUSIAD, the interest organization of the largest Turkish business, launched two reports on the situation of countries' water management and its problems, during the conference 'Sustainable Water Management' it organized. Both the conference and the reports clearly aim to promote private water management, in the aftermath a dry summer when people got already used to consume bottled water. Just to note, as a result of policies followed in recent years tap water has contaminated and became undrinkable in major cities like Istanbul and Ankara, in which one fifth of all population lives.
After indirect privatization of the distribution of drinkable water in major cities, TUSIAD's reports, and the speech delivered by the vice president of the business organization directly calls government to open entire sector to private participation, especially for large investments. Of course the call follows 'scientific' presentation of public water management failures and claims that private management is the one to solve existing problems.
However Turkish governments have already taken quite a long way in the direction of privately managed water. There were even privatization of water management in cities like Antalya and Izmit. No surprise that the TUSIAD reports forgets to mention about the existence of such pilot failures in which private management caused high tariffs, and sometimes ended up with contract termination.
Private sector participation on the other hand has been introduced gradually by the efforts of current government. Public Administration reform prepared by the AKP government constituted the main framework for such efforts. The recent law on public-private-partnerships in large energy investments has been indicating the direction to where the national water sector is led. Another recent law on public procurement has diminished the public control over large public buying in this field. Regional Development Agencies designed as the key institution in the process to take place of Water Works Agency, Bank of Provinces and the other traditional institutions.
Probably this road was clarified in Mexico 2006, when the delegation of AKP government to the 4th World Water Forum demanded to host the next Forum in Istanbul. Since then, the government gave strong signals showing that they are preparing to launch may be the largest water privatization of the world, with an estimated value of 90 billon US dollars, in an adequate time. The 5th World Water Forum will be held between 16 and 23 March 2009 in Istanbul, a beautiful historical city which is almost ready to transfer its complete infrastructure to the hands of business under a regional development plan, seems to be the place where transnational corporations and their prospective Turkish partners will try to give a strong message that they can manage the water business better than public. The 5th Forum is going to take place just before the local elections of March 29th, and if the current government would win these elections, there is little doubt that '90 billion cake', as a businessmen calls, will be realized.
Thinking of the previous experience of private sector in water management across the world this development would hit Istanbul's and Turkey's water infrastructure long before the large earthquake that is expected in coming years.