No more chances to privatise the water management sector2013-08-14
The Ministry of Environment has submitted draft amendments to the Law on the Supply of Drinking Water and Wastewater Management to the Government. Should they be approved and passed, it will not take long for consumers to sense the benefits to the suggested reorganisation of the water sector – both in terms of quality and price of services. “The improved law will help rearrange the Lithuanian water sector. It’s only after we start managing it smartly, consolidate water suppliers and unify prices for water services that positive change can be expected,” Minister of Environment Valentinas Mazuronis said.
He adds that the newly proposed legal provisions preclude any chances of privatising the water management sector. These chances have constantly caused concern in the public domain whether or not it will be privatised. Such opportunities are available with the existing legislation, which provides for the obligation to select water suppliers through a tendering procedure. As a matter of fact, tenders for water supply, which appears to be a monopolistic activity, are open to private entities. The legal amendments drafted by the Ministry of Environment provide that conducting the water supply activity is limited to municipalities, which will independently select public water suppliers and set prices for water services.
To date, the country has not appointed a single public water supplier or issued a single licence, although the law had imposed such an obligation on municipalities by 30 June 2008. Calling for a tender to select a public water supplier had been procrastinated for fear that private entities might appropriate the water management sector. The new law would change such a situation by providing that public water suppliers must be appointed by municipal councils.
Adoption of the proposed legislative provisions would also ensure uniform prices for services. At present, two or more water suppliers operating in one municipality provide the same service at different rates. The situation will change after water suppliers are consolidated so that each municipality has only one public water supplier. Specific examples of consolidating water management companies show that not only do water service rates stay on the same level, but they also drop.
“What we also suggest is establishing a system for managing superficial wastewater, which has been neglected for the whole decade, although environmental damage this type of wastewater causes is self-evident. It carries petroleum and other pollutants to the water bodies,” Minister of Environment said.
In order to address wastewater management issues, funding of the water management sector in 2014-2020 will focus on small and more remote settlements with population under 2,000 which have not had the opportunity to manage their wastewater before.
Public information division