The Greek government has introduced a bill that could pave the way to the privatization of the water supply in Greece.
The bill was introduced with limited public consultation this week, days before the date of the general elections is announced.
The most important change is that the responsibilities for regulation and control of all providers of the country’s public water supply and sewerage service are removed from the relevant ministry and assigned to the independent Energy Regulatory Authority (RAE) which is renamed the Waste, Energy and Water Regulatory Authority (RAAEF).
The issue that arises with this change, as several parties of Greek opposition noted, is that placing the control of a public good such as water under a regulatory authority only makes sense when the market for the provision of that good is privatized and liberalized.
The regulatory authority is not subject to the supervision of the State, and its actions are enforceable without being subject to any type of legal or expediency control by the competent ministry.
Critics point out that the privatization of the water supply is unconstitutional, and they point to successive decisions of the Council of State, the supreme administrative court of Greece, which has ruled accordingly.
Government denies it aims to privatize the water supply
The Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Skrekas denied that the bill will lead to the privatization of water. “We don’t want to privatize the water. We are bringing in the bill because public monopolies are poorly controlled, although they perform a very serious service for public health,” the minister asserted.
“There are public monopolies, municipal monopolies that must be controlled because they manage the most valuable resource, which is water and which in the coming years will be in short supply due to climate change,” Skreaks added.
Opposition parties claim that the controversial bill will lead to the privatization of the water supply, and that the move is characteristic of a government in a frenzy to privatize public assets and outsource services through public-private partnerships and contractors.
The main opposition SYRIZA said that the bill will result in higher costs for households and businesses and make super profits for some. “It will limit everyone’s access to basic goods, such as water.”
Socialist PASOK noted that the final goal of the bill is to “change who decides the pricing of such a valuable commodity, with the risk of seeing unjustified increases in the cost of water.”