16 Jun 2006

Opposition in Fiji against plans to privatise Fiji's ailing water supply system

10:18 am on 16 June 2006

There's fierce opposition in Fiji to plans by the minister of public utilities, Robin Irwin, to privatise the country's ailing water supply system.

Brandishing a bottle of mineral water in parliament, Mr Irwin said privatization was his top priority and private water would not cost more than $2 a litre compared to the uneconomic price a 1-cent a litre for the public supply.

Mr Irwin's comments came as Fiji faces a daily crisis, with tens of thousands without water in their taps, hotels in the west unable to provide water for their guests, rationing in Labasa and medical advice to boil all drinking water for fear of disease.

Fiji's NGO have written to all members of parliament calling on them not to agree to privatization.

They say experience in other parts of the world where water has been privatised like Bolivia, Guinea, South Africa and Ghana shows that privatisation has led to the exclusion of the poor from accessing clean water as a result of increased charges and disconnections.

Opposition MP Bernadette Rounds Ganilau has warned parliament that such a situation will force the poor and those on low incomes to resort to using water from unsafe sources which will lead to high incidences of water borne diseases.

The Fiji Labour Party says Mr Irwin's price of $2 for a litre of water would make it more expensive than petrol and the party would do everything possible to fight the privatisation of water.