That is the conclusion of research published today by Mischa Balen. Over a billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion people have no sanitation facilities. More than two million people die each year from diarrhoea, and over six million people are blind as a result of trachoma, a disease strongly related to lack of face washing. In Sub Saharan Africa, 42% of the population lacks access to decent water. This state of affairs, he finds, is caused by state failure in water systems.
What can be done? Where the private sector has been called in, it has prevented wars and conflict by creating a system of property rights and acting as an incentive to conserve; increased access to clean water; increased the treatment of sewage, thereby lowering infant mortality; cut politicisation from the supply of water; promoted sustainable development by reducing wastage.
That is great. Unfortunately, ideological opponents of markets are campaigning heavily against the private sector. They choose, he says, “not to compare private provision in reality with state provision in reality, but private provision in reality with a mythical, utopian state provision which does not exist in the real world.” No change there, then.