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Last Friday, European Union (EU) Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier announced the decision to exclude water and sanitation services from a planned Directive on concessions (contracts with private companies over the provision of public services). Water will be exempt, not because the EU believes it was a mistake to include it in its plans for private provision, but because the citizenry misunderstood the EU’s intentions.

Shining example of market-based water supply (with unclear prospects in Europe)

(Source: Stougard. CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

The announcement came against a backdrop of protests in several countries against the privatisation of water, and the first “European Citizens’ Initiative” to reach quorum. Nearly 1.5 million EU citizens signed the petition (still open) to exclude water and sanitation from internal market rules and ensure the universal right to water; though participation was massively skewed towards one country, Germany.

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Since the beginning, proponents of microcredit have argued that they have found a self-sustaining, profitable route to reducing poverty: borrowers repay loans with enough interest to cover the costs plus an increase in the bank’s capital base, plus a payout for its owners. Sceptics of this story point to the fact that most microcredit programmes are still subsidised by donors. They argue that this is because many borrowers cannot afford to repay so dearly, and that the cost of capital should be lower in order to help more and poorer people.

Welcome to the ‘sustainability versus outreach’ debate. At the core, it is about the question whether incentives or impact matter more. Time to examine the arguments. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
June 2023

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