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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Speaking on the third day of the Third World Water Forum in Japan, Water Aid + the Tearfund have hit out at international lending institutions such as the World Bank for their "obsession" with the private sector.

Eric Gutierrez of Water Aid said: "The international private sector currently only provides 5% of all the water services in the world, very largely in richer and more developed countries... The obsession with the private sector to provide clean water to those most in need is a total distraction. We must move on to stop the millions of needless deaths from water-related diseases..."

Joanne Green from Tearfund added: "International policy-makers and institutions like the World Bank are misguided in thinking that the private sector will have any real impact on reaching the 1.2 billion poorest people in the world who lack access to safe water and... "The international community must stop arm-twisting countries to give access to private sector companies as a condition for receiving development aid, grants and loans."

The World Bank's vice-president for sustainable development, Ian Johnson, has responded by stating: "We have discussions with governments who have to determine what the right mix of public and private sector roles should be in delivering services, and then we work with them"... "We do not have an ideological prima facie position that says that we must force privatisation on anyone. We are not religious zealots when it comes to privatisation."