This is the first of the papers to be presented at the 3rd ICIRD at Chulalongkorn University in November as part of our panel of Uneven Development in the Mekong Region: Infrastructure and Gender Issues.
Water privatization is an emotive subject and one that attracted a bad reputation owing to botched efforts in some western countries that have seen profits rise while services decline and apparently predatory privatization in South Africa and elsewhere that denied water to the poor. Water is widely considered to be a public good that should be available to people at a price as close to zero as possible. A powerful campaign to make access to water a human right has been launched and there is an evident contradiction between human rights and the market-based transactions seemingly required for water treated as a commodity. Yet this contradiction must somehow be resolved because the demand for water is continuously increasing as the result of intensifying industrialization and urbanization and the huge increases in scale of the tourism industry. While demand is rapidly escalating, supply conditions have become much less predictable as the result of the increasingly evident impacts of global climate change. Privatization can have a role in ameliorating these problems if it is properly planned and managed, if the scope of individual projects is limited to the scale issues endemic in management of water resources and, finally, if appropriate governance promotes objectives that are socially beneficial rather than depending entirely on the bottom line. This paper explores the ways in which water privatization has taken place in the south of Thailand from a comparative perspective and evaluates the limits of what can be achieved by these means and also investigates the contours of a successful privatization project.
Keywords: global climate change, industrialization, privatization, Thailand, water
Alin Chintraruck, Doctoral Candidate, School of Management, Shinawatra University
John Walsh, Assistant Professor, School of Management, Shinawatra University