Article Index

Beyond Democratic Control

A considerable number of variants of opaque financial routes, secret clauses, the lack of possibilities of democratic control, corruption and long term continuous price increases are the most visible characteristics of thousands of worldwide water enterprises belonging to the Global Players Veolia and Suez, be it in Berlin, Klagenfurt, Budapest, Bucharest, Odessa, Tbilisi, Erivan, Soweto, Casablanca, the Chinese Haikou, the Italian Province Latina … or Paris. In 2001, when Anne Le Start was nominated “Eau de Paris“’s president, she found herself in a men’s world, the world of the highly opaque Paris water management. A certain Jacques Chirac, former mayor, to this day still strongly suspected of corruption in this affair, had set up the structure: on the one hand water distribution, as well as the thousands of km of ductwork, bookkeeping, and so on, were in private hands, the left bank of the Seine belonging to Suez and the right bank to Veolia. Whereas, on the other hand, the production of drinking water and water sanitation were the responsibility of the municipality – so to speak, as until 2007 Veolia and Suez were also optimally represented in the production syndicate “Eau de Paris” as they held 30% of its shares. This structure brims over with the overlapping of competences. But the worst thing, according to Ann Le Strat, is the commune’s loss of control over decisive questions: how does the actual performance of Veolia and Suez match up with their exorbitant profits? Do the prices invoiced actually represent the work accomplished? How high are the effective administrative costs compared to those put in the water invoice? How many of the Veolia and Suez personnel charged therein actually work for the Parisians? Have the enormous amounts which have flown into their pockets to maintain the piping network, keep it in shape and renovate it really been used for this purpose? Wasn’t the phenomenal expansion of Veolia and Suez also financed with the Parisians’ taxes? Lille, Lyon, Toulouse, Rennes, Ile de France, Bordeaux, Grenoble: these last few years, a sad chronicle of inflated prices, corruption, deception and disappearing investment funds corroborated the pertinence of these questions.