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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 June 18 - 24  > Osaka City mayor aims to privatize public waterworks
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2014 June 18 - 24 [POLITICS]

Osaka City mayor aims to privatize public waterworks

June 20, 2014
Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto Toru is aiming to privatize the public water-supply service as early as in FY 2015. Citizens, however, are expressing concern about leaving access to water in the hands of a for-profit organization.

The city in its draft plan seeks to establish a 100%-owned stock corporation while keeping ownership of the city’s three purification plants and other related facilities. The local government will pass on to the new establishment the right to operate the water supply in the city with a population of 2.7 million.

Hashimoto promotes the privatization as a rosy future bringing about cost-saving management, major business opportunities, and low water rates.

Workers of the city’s waterworks department are now afraid of being the target of cost-cutting measures because the draft plan calls for the reduction in the number of water-supply municipal employees from the present 1,641 to 1,000 or fewer. Some complain that they are short on staff even now.

The rate cut catch-phrase is also misleading as it will apply only to big water users such as factories, hotels, and large business entities.

Mayor Hashimoto already abolished the measure to exempt about 200,000 needy elderly persons and single-parent families from having to pay for water.

Japanese Communist Party member of the Osaka City Assembly Iwasaki Kenta said, “Stock companies must pay taxes and dividends, so they focus on the pursuit of profits. The privatization will assure neither renovations for quake-proof water pipes nor the maintenance of fair rates.”

The JCP assemblyperson opposes privatization of the public water-supply service, pointing out that water supply to all residents can be possible only because it is a publicly-owned service where the city administration and the assembly can keep an eye on its fair and equitable distribution.

Moving away from privatization to public control is now a trend in Europe. After public waterworks were privatized in the1990s, water business firms in France and other European countries have rapidly become globalized causing various problems, including a steep rise in water rates. Paris and Berlin re-socialized their water supply systems.

Nakagami Ken’ichi, a professor who specializes in water issues at Ritsumeikan University, said, “Access to water is a human right. The international community is discussing how to ensure a supply of safe water to the poor. Osaka City should also consider how it can contribute to maintaining and developing its water and sewerage systems by utilizing its highly-advanced technologies in the public interest.”
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