On October 22th “Criteria CaixaCorp” (a financial institution called “la Caixa”) and French transnational “Suez Environnement Company, SA” (“Suez”) agreed that 75.01% of the shares of private company “Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona SA” (AGBAR) would be controlled by the French corporation Suez.

Private water management puts firstly corporate profits to the criteria of service quality. In the current economic globalization capital moves very easily, so private water management gets management decision moved out to Paris, Moscow, Beijing or any other city in the world. Private water management has meant that “la Caixa” sells AGBAR to Suez, which will make that decisions and control of household supply systems, of about 80% of the Catalan population, until now based in Paris and in the future who knows where. Please note that the agreement between “la Caixa” and Suez has a clause where “la Caixa” can get rid of all the shares of AGBAR within 5 years [1].

To prevent the center of decision of water main distributor of the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona relocate, the “Partido Socialista de Catalunya” (PSC) submitted a proposal that meets the old objectives of AGBAR: the privatization of public enterprise Aguas Ter Llobregat (ATLL), water distribution company in high (from water source to municipal pound), would become a subsidiary of AGBAR. The proposal has already been confirmed to the “Commission Nacional del Mercado de Valores” (CNMV) by Suez Environnement, Criteria and AGBAR, according to renown economic newspaper [2]. Thus, the Government of the “Generalitat de Catalunya” became a minority shareholder in the new “big” AGBAR, leaded by a private foreign group, which not only control the water distribution in low (from municipal pound to household and industrial consumption), as is currently AGBAR does but also in high. That is, the company controlling from the sources of the resources to its local distribution, as the main water supply pipes today are public and controlled by ATLL.

We have the immediate risk that the entire supply system in the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona and most of Catalonia, can be privatized without competition from other distributors, joining the company in the same water management high and low. The social and political implications of this privatization are very grave. This will mean the loss of the possibility of social control of water for several generations, by entering into a process of progressive civil impoverishment replaced by the search for private profits. The option of privatizing ATLL had been rejected by former governments of the “Generalitat” due to its importance in the country governance.

The sale of shares of AGBAR from “la Caixa” to Suez carries the possibility of an expansion unprecedented in the privatization of water management in Catalonia, seriously threatening not only the public character of ATLL but also, in the medium term, the “Consorcio de Aguas de Tarragona” (CAT). The Government and AGBAR had already manifested their interest in carrying out these operations during the last Decree of Drought (“Decreto de Sequía”) and the interconnection proposal of CAT and ATLL, in the spring of 2008. In addition, the management criteria promoted by transnational corporations like Suez promote and facilitate interconnection rivers of Ebro and Roina to Barcelona, and obstruct the measures currently planned to reverse the overexploitation of the river Ter.

Water is a common good and of general interest can not be considered as a commodity subject to commercial interests. Must be organized and be managed by public authorities who responded, ultimately, the democratically elected representatives. In Catalonia, we are on the opposite way to other European countries like France, where has remunicipalized management of water in many cities, including Paris. Likewise, the United Nations recognize their studies [3] that the price of water supplied by public entities is cheaper than what they offer private profit, as is the case of AGBAR.

The management of water, as a natural monopoly, must be maintained by the public sector from an optical effective, efficient, sustainable and socially responsible. The water can not be managed for profit. Water is life, not a commodity.

The best way to shield the water management in Catalonia must be transparent and participatory and must be under social criteria and not commercial. Therefore not be allowed that AGBAR continue to hamper the publication, by public access and real-time, of parameters of water quality for human consumption.

Now is the time to MUNICIPALIZE the water management in Catalonia! We demand the supply and household sanitation in the hands of public, transparent and democratic, where the relationship with citizens is an opportunity to further democratize our society.

26 October 2009

[1]: El futuro de AGBAR entre en el debate político. Expansión 24/10/09  http://www.expansion.com/2009/10/23/opinion/llave-online/1256325489.html
[2]: La Generalitat se suma a la venta de AGBAR a Suez. Expasión 22/10/09  http://www.expansion.com/2009/10/22/empresas/1256245160.html
[3]: PNUD Report “Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis” 2006, http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2006/, and article: http://www.unep.org/dewa/vitalwater/article137.html