Jakarta court cancels world’s biggest water privatisation contract

A Jakarta court nullified water contracts signed by the authorities with the French water company Suez for not fulfilling the human right to water for Jakarta’s residents.

Facebook page of Jakarta water utility

Facebook page of Jakarta water utility

The 18 year old contract was signed between the Indonesian government and Suez in 1997 during Suharto’s regime, that residents alleged was a corrupt deal. A broad coalition of Jakarta residents, trade unions, and other activists have been fighting this battle to reclaim Jakarta’s water that resulted in this significant judgement on the 24th of March 2014. People opposed the public-private company called Pam Jaya on the grounds that profits were increasing without improving water services. Water services coverage has been lower than promised and water leakage levels were high, while water tariffs grew fourfold since the public-private partnership came into force.

According to Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of the global trade union federation Public Services International, “The decision is a success for the Jakarta citizens and workers, but also for the global water movement.” In February 2015, the Indonesian court annulled a law on water resources on the grounds that water resources must be controlled and allocated for the public benefit, and thus private companies cannot monopolize rights over water sources.

Globally, many major cities are reclaiming their cities private water companies as public utilities — Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Accra, Dar es Salaam, Kuala Lumpur. According to WaterJustice campaign of Transnational Institute, most of these re-municipalisations occur because privatisation has failed to deliver investment, led to poor services, and unsustainable water rates.


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