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SWA partners Exchange Forum on balancing consumer protection and utility financial stability during the COVID-19 pandemic

Sanitation and Water for All Secretariat
02 Jun 2020

Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Partner Exchange Forum

 

 

This virtual forum, organised by The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on balancing consumer protection and utility financial stability during the COVID-19 pandemic, explored the tension between consumer protection and the need to ensure everyone can access and afford water during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the imperative to keep utilities financially stable and solvent.

Under normal conditions, there is a tension between consumer protection and ensuring universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, and maintaining the financial stability of service providers.  These problems become particularly acute when users are unable to pay due to external factors, and when these services become critical to ensuring not just the health of individual users, but the health and well-being of the general public at large. 

Human rights advocates and consumer protection groups have called for utilities to provide discounted or free water to many or all consumers during the pandemic. These calls come at a time that utilities are facing a crisis in revenues as consumers struggle to pay their bills, and high-volume commercial water users, such as factories, are shuttered.  Many utilities are facing a significant decrease in the funds they will have available to both run their existing operations and invest in future growth.

The Forum was organised by SWA partners and provided a platform for learning on COVID-19 pandemic related challenges, and cross constituency exchange between SWA partners.  The Forum was facilitated by The Water Institute at UNC as part of the series of webinars hosted by the SWA Research and Learning Constituency members.

Opening remarks by Aaron Salzberg, Director, Water Institute.

Panel Moderated by Clarissa Brocklehurst, Affiliated Faculty Member, Water Institute.

Panelists:

  • Mr. Al Hassan Adam, Coordinator, End Water Poverty
  • Mrs. Jabulile Mashwama, Managing Director, Eswatini Water Service Corporation
  • Mr. Dominique Gatel, French Federation of Water Enterprises (FP2E)
  • Dr. Jorge Werneck, Director, Regulatory Agency for Water, Energy and Basic Sanitation of the Federal District, Brazil
  • Mr. Luis Andres, Lead Economist, Water Global Practice, World Bank
  • Prof. Dale Whittington, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A moderated conversation between stakeholders in Ghana followed the panel discussion

  • Dr. Clifford Braimah, Managing Director, Ghana Water Company Ltd. 
  • Mr. Joseph Antwi, Chief Budget Analyst, Ministry of Finance of Ghana
  • Ms Vida Duti, IRC Ghana.