commerce gazette - Pamela Kasese Bwalya
Moving on Millenium

‘This increase is partly attributed to rapid urbanization and growth of slums and unplanned settlements
in Lusaka, as this is the only province which showed a decline in access to safe drinking water between
2006 and 2010,’ the report says.
This has resulted in the unplanned neighbourhoods often becoming susceptible to water-borne diseases.
Women and children suffer the brunt of the disease burden and many more are lumbered with the
responsibility of drawing water for their homes. This leaves women little time to earn a living or carry out
other responsibilities while many children’s education has been totally or partially disrupted as a result of
poverty and performing these essential chores for their family.
Pamela Kasese Bwalya, the CEO of Millennium Challenge Account - Zambia (MCA Zambia) explains
that the core problem of Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LWSC), the entity responsible
for providing water and sanitation services within the city, has been its inability to provide an efficient
water and sanitation service to Lusaka residents because of its outdated infrastructure that has not been
rehabilitated for the last 30 years.
In order to improve progress on meeting the MDG target 7, which aims to half the proportion of the
population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, government
undertook national water reforms and created commercial water and sewerage utility companies.
LWSC was setup as a commercial entity in 1998 and has slowly recorded successes and challenges in
providing water and sanitation services. Among its success is its transformation from a loss making
company in 2003, to a highly profitable one. It is no longer a liability to government and has improved the
quality of its service, but like most utility companies in the country LWSC cannot embark on an expansion
of its infrastructure as it lacks financing and capacity.
In fact, in 2008 LWSC’s mandate was extended to cover all of Lusaka province, including the councils of
Chongwe, Kafue and Luangwa as the newest shareholders of the company further stretched its limited
resources.
The Lusaka City Council (LCC), the local government entity responsible for managing Lusaka’s drainage
infrastructure, faces a similar lack of investment to its drainage infrastructure, but what has become even more apparent over the years as the city has struggled with floods is that the existing drainage system was never adequately developed to begin with.
Faced with the burden of the capital city lacking adequate water supply and coupled with the increased
water-borne diseases threat, government submitted the Lusaka Water Supply, Sanitation and Drainage
(LWSSD) project to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for consideration in 2010.
This initiative taken by government to partner with the U.S. government’s MCC and transacting through
the Millennium Challenge Account Zambia (MCA-Zambia) has the full support of LWSC and the LCC.
World bank and IMF austerity - got us here Leonard Shang-Quartey, policy analyst, Water and Health, Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC) Ghana, examining the historical basis of why governments and the utility companies failed to invest in their essential infrastructure of water and sanitation for such a long term says the problem is slightly more complex than simply a lack of policy and long term strategy that is regularly cited as one major cause of insufficient progress in the sector.
While this maybe true today, this was certainly not the case 30 years ago when most water utilities began experiencing serious operational constraints due to World Bank and IMF policies, he says.

Since utility companies were state owned entities and government was suffering from serious trade deficits which had enormous implications on its budget, income, and its abilities to honour loan obligations to bilateral and multilateral partners, LWSC among other parastatals companies suffered from the malaise curtailing funding.
The policy difficulties government was facing from the two financing institutions coincided around that
period, with a major shift in global economic thought; which viewed state intervention in critical sectors
of the economy, to neoliberal economic thought that preferred the deregulation of markets and their
unfettered operation, Shang-Quartey says.
This thought became dominant in the IMF and World Bank and influenced structural adjustment austerity packages that they prescribed not only to Zambia but to other struggling African economies at that time.

This point is fundamental and cannot be divorced from any comprehensive analysis of the access deficit
in the water and sanitation sector as well as to other essential services sectors provided by government.
The austerity measures enforced by the World Bank and IMF, Shang-Quartey says, resulted in deterioration of facilities, poor conditions for staff and a mass exodus of expert staff. In the face of the resulting difficulties, only one option for the government remained - the option of full cost recovery and of privatisation. This sealed the expectations of any funding for the sector as investors found the water sector highly risky to invest in because the consumers were mostly poor and profits compared to the infrastructure investment required in the sector were marginal if at all.

 

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