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Argument: For-profit water companies seek to maximize profits at higher cost

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Bechtel in Bolivia in 1999 raised prices three fold in some areas

  • Murray Dobbin. 'COUNTERPOINT: Water: right or commodity?" The National Post. February 8, 2001 - "In February, 1999, the World Bank told the mayor of Cochabamba that if the city did not privatize its water system it would not receive another cent of financial assistance for local water development. Then, after judging the resulting Misicuni privatization project financially unviable, the Bank proceeded to back it anyway, insisting on water pricing that would cover the excessive costs, and guarantee that Bechtel would earn a 16% profit.
Water prices for many locals tripled, meaning some people were paying 20% of their income for water. In a scenario impossible to parody, people not even hooked up to the system were told that they would have to put metres on their private wells and pay Bechtel for the water they drew.
The resulting citizens' revolt shook the Bolivian government. It led to a week of protests, general strikes, and highway blockages which brought major areas of the country to a virtual standstill. The government caved and told Bechtel to leave. The privatization was reversed and the water system handed over to the town."

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