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  • Richard

‘We have a problem’

Water Sector: 'We have a problem' …. Which is that we are trying to enable societies and communities to receive the benefits of improved water and sanitation in advance of that society or community being able to afford that improvement

Compounded by the level of improvement (over and above the existing services being received) being perceived by households as marginal, relative to other needs and wants in a low-income, cash limited, economy.

So we are then tempted to consider ever more complicated solutions to address the need that 'we' see so clearly when our target societies too often think 'we're not that bothered, thank you.'

There is nothing new in this challenge - societies have traditionally upgraded their watsan as a lagging response to economic growth. But now low-income societies have 'outsiders' who make their living trying to deliver the outsiders' perception of needs. Which is why we (‘the sector’) have been through the community managed approach and the private and the public-private alternative methods of trying to deliver sustainable services …

None of which quite work as ‘the community’ (consumers/customers) still don’t want to actually pay the appropriate cost for the services – and none of the management alternatives can overcome this underlying problem.

Summarising in my mind: Public producers incorporate a mismatch in incentives, corporately and individually, Private is (too?) expensive (and apart from SMEs ‘on the fringe’, are such an easy political target) and communities don't have sufficient resources (human as well as cash) …. OK, pressing on ….

What to do?

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