Disruptions from within: how Mauritian water sector governance drains off the sustainability of water services
(SOAS, University of London)
Paper short abstract:
Talks about a "water crisis" in Mauritius have led decision-makers to construct new dams in order to increase water supply. Analysing the sector's political economy, this paper argues that poor performance is not caused by insufficient water supply but by inadequate water sector governance.
Paper long abstract:
Mauritian water services are the epitome of low-performance utilities typical of developing countries. Non-revenue water amounts to 55 percent, water supply is largely underpriced, infrastructure is deteriorating and 30 percent of the distribution network needs replacement, with estimated costs equivalent to nine years' worth of annual revenues of the public water provider. The need to reform the Mauritian water sector has been acknowledged by decision-makers. However, the sector's dysfunctions are considered being the result of insufficient storage capacity and a desolate distribution network; hence the "reform" is driven by a supply-side approach and the construction of large-scale infrastructure such as new dams and reservoirs. Until now, governance, i.e. the system in place to oversee, plan, direct, monitor and enforce transactions between various uses of water, has not been considered the cause for poor sector performance. This paper studies Mauritian water sector governance and reveals a lack of transparency, unclearly distributed and overlapping responsibilities and a lack of long-term vision endangering the sustainability of water provision. An analysis of the political economy of the Mauritian water sector exhibits that it is neither likely that any of these issues will be addressed under the current setting nor is it likely that the current setting will change. Therefore, the paper concludes, the performance of Mauritian water services is expected to remain low. An implication of this research is that, for other developing countries, the Mauritian case tells a cautionary tale of the effectiveness of the reform of a highly political sector.
Non-existing public utilities that disrupt… and existing public utilities that are disrupted