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Title: WATER PRIVATIZATION IN GREECE: TURNING WATERS INTO PROFITS?

Author: S. Gialis, C. Laspidou, A. Loukas and N. Mylopoulos

Year: 2009

Publisher: European Water Resources Association (EWRA)

Description:

This paper offers a contemporary view on water privatization in Greece, focusing on country’s majors urban centres, Athens and Thessaloniki. At first, it attempts a brief presentation and categorization of the changes related to water supply companies, worldwide. The basic arguments that support the expanding private sector involvement in the water supply industry are related to a new era of socioeconomic development, especially among developed countries. For this era, water privatization’s promotion is connected to a series of goals, such as financing new investments; implementing sufficient technical projects; promoting economic efficiency and higher profits; improving service quality and environmental conservation. All these goals are considered to be poorly-functioning in the frame of state-owned companies guided by 'supply-led' and 'equity of access' managerial
goals. The paper highlights the expansion of water supply 'mercantilization' as well as the variety of privatization forms recently promoted. This analysis indicated that the implementation of concession contracts, in which assets are kept public while the rest network is managed according to 'market environmentalism' rules and axioms, is the most frequent form, at least among the advanced countries. In the empirical part, the study presents relevant efforts in Greece during the past two decades. A primary assessment of the two major privatization projects, related to the water supply companies of the greater urban areas of Athens and Thessaloniki, is presented. The observed incremental profitability for the companies under study, reflects a successful case of transformation according to the rules of the market-environmentalist paradigm, though the state is a major regulator of the whole privatization process. This transformation is based on geographical expansion, coupled with embedment/further promotion of commodification and commercialization as well
as investment (utilized or forthcoming) in new activities. Based on the Greek case, the paper claims that water privatization initiatives and the expansion of a demand-led model of water supply management should be both conceptualized in terms of a wider socio-political transformation towards the post-fordist era. In this frame, water supply systems transformation in an urban or peri-urban area is the outcome of the complex interplay of a series of global-to-local factors. The national economic, political and institutional settings are significant for this process, especially in the Greek case.