Privatizing our water? I’m sure it’d make a lot of people gasp in shock. But, wait a minute, I’ve never, in my entire life in Lebanon, gotten a single drop of water from the state run water company. Not. A. Single. Drop. Every house I’ve lived in, we either had an artesian aquifer (beer 2ertwaze), or bought cisterns of water. Yet, every year I pay the respective municipalities for the water I never used… So, which water are you afraid of being privatized exactly? The ones that come to some parts of Lebanon for a couple of hours a day?
The water issue is as bad as the electricity one. It’s completely and utterly dismal. In a country with so much precipitation (usually), rivers, mountains and temperate climate, it’s definitely not ok to be so lacking in water. Imagine, the government is considering buying water from Turkey… It’s that bad and wasteful.
The “Profit” Word Allergy
“Capitalism is evil” bla bla bla. If I had a lira for every time I heard that… “Privatization” is like a dirty word in Lebanon, it’s taboo. Why? Because in the post-war year, zero transparency and extreme corruption spawned corporations like our telecos, (real estate company you know) and other mega-corporations that many parts of the population consider pure evil. But, that’s the governments’ at the time’s fault, not a corporation’s. A corporation makes profit. That’s no secret. That’s how a capitalist economy works: you innovate, compete and invest, in hopes of getting profit on the long-run.
I believe competition is the best way to move forward and develop anything. Planes and radar and radio and antibiotics would have probably taken a lot longer to realize if the world hand’t gone to war twice. When more than one company compete in a market, their products become better, cheaper and safer. One recurrent theme I hear is that pharmaceutical companies just want to make money off of you, thus make unsafe drugs that make you sick so they make profit. Umm… If a drug manufacturer does a bad drug, and people get killed or sick, we’ll stop buying their drugs, and their profits will go down. So, if you were a drug maker, you’d probably do everything you can to make sure your drugs are safe, and guarantee you make profits. If it was a governmental body, it’d probably just say “oops, we’re sorry!” and move back into mediocre advancements with lack of competition. I can give a dozen other examples but I think I made my point.
Profits are ok. It’s not a bad word. Making money honestly isn’t a crime. So, cut the populist rhetoric and conspiracy theories and focus on yourself for a moment. Are you getting water? If so, is it adequate? Is it safe? It’s not even potable. Are you paying for it? Isn’t someone making profit then? But, you’re not getting any good or service for it, and doesn’t look like you’ll be any time soon.
It’s name is like something “Mr Burns” from The Simpsons would create in a dark lair somewhere with other rich evil men. The marketing campaigns have been super vague and too-good-to-be-true, and the backlash by some observers has made me question a lot things. We Lebanese don’t trust anyone’s promises. We’re used to being let down, and used to zero accountability when it comes to public policy (and pretty much everything else). We also are distrustful of good intentions. Why would anyone want to fix our water problem for free? And that question is spot on, why? And the answer is no one. But, think of how much money could be generated if we not only have enough water, but a surplus, meaning we can sell it to other countries not as fortunate as us.
My personal opinion is, I think the folks behind Blue Gold are planning on banking on the 500 million cubic meter surplus after the Blue Gold plan gets implemented. With proper distribution, good waste management, new dams, water collection methods and other water resource development plans they have, will allegedly ensure every Lebanese person’s water needs by 2020. It’s an ambitious date, and I’m not sure how in just 6 years anyone can fix this mess, but what I’m sure of is it’s not the government: our bankrupt, corrupt, inefficient excuse of a government.
We mustn’t fall into the same mistakes as the 1990s. Privatization shouldn’t be another word for unfair monopolies. If a prime minister sells a state resource to himself or his family, that’s not privatization, that’s corruption and conflict of interests and abuse of power (which is the case with a lot of privatized services in Lebanon unfortunately).
Transparency is the dealmaker for Blue Gold. If they can earn people’s trust, mine included, and demonstrate how transparent they’re planning to be, and how much of a say the average citizen like myself has, they’ll have my full support. I couldn’t care less if the money is going to the State or not. I care about getting what I paid for, and if that means a private corporation coming in and fixing it, then by all means, please do. As long consumer rights are untouchable, I see no problem with letting a private corporation run something that the state couldn’t. I remember paying my electricity bills in New York to ConEdison, and I’m pretty sure the water and electricity and heating there was better than my home hear in Zouk Mikael…
The only hope we have is in a powerful, transparent private sector. The public sector is dismal, and won’t be fixed anytime soon. Heck, even their work hours are absurdly short and illogical, just like everything else. The challenge here, is making sure Blue Gold won’t become another (real estate company you know) which built itself upoon exploiting the country’s weak and poor. Bottom line is, we want water. So, let’s see who can get it to us in the cheapest, most efficient and fastest way possible. Hint: it’s definitely not the government (at least not alone).