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The heated debate between professionals and politicians on infrastructure and service deliveries shall continue till eternity.
Last week my friend (who is a politician) took me out for a coffee. I knew it would be a good chance for both of us to air our frustrations from our wives and direct it more towards ourselves.
I was at the coffee shop in time waiting for him, and as usual he called me 5 minutes later saying that he shall be five minutes late. Eventually he arrived 30 minutes later with a big smile and a promise to make it up to me.
While having our coffees he launched a swift attack started by saying “I do not know how you people operate?”….I laughed and retaliated by saying we are the ones that do not know how you politicians work? We fail to understand your values. I went on saying “Politicians are usually classified based on the value system of the country of application. With the lack of accountability any person (not only politicians) can become useless and inefficient.
Some countries have or had a value system based on achievements no matter tools to be used ( the Machiavelli principles). Their politicians embrace the value and use it to verify their actions, which can range from petty lies to killing, to ensure success of goals.
In developing countries the goals have moved from success of the state and serving the people to serve oneself and the leader’s interest no matter what. This is the detriment to the system, because with lack of public accountability and with an autocratic leader that politicians run to serve, the leader becomes becomes the state and the people become the servants.
Funny enough when the above mentioned situation prevails in a country the morals drop, and the dexterity disappears. The latter disappearance is mainly due to first: devaluation of education in the value system, secondly, the migration of professionals, and thirdly disarray in the nation structures, and the imminent fight between law and the law makers/politicians.
In the light of above discussion I can answer your difficult question as follows:
The politicians intentions differ from ours (professionals). They intend to implement a project if it coincides with their personal interest only. Therefore a fight might erupt between the politician and the professional who is trained to procure services, goods and administer their use in certain manner different than that of the politicians.
I may agree with you my dear friend that some professionals and specially engineers don’t give ample explanation or talk. It is due to their training. They are used to drawing as a tool of communication. Also some of them assumes that the other understands what they say. They are vocally challenged
The pride of the professional is delivering a service to highest possible technical level, while politicians pride is delivering a service at the best personal and political gains. Thus conflict erupts. This conflict results in delay of decision taking by politicians, whom later starts pointing fingers during the election year, and tell the people all sorts of excuses and faint promises in a quest for a renewed term of non-achievement. The professionals gets frustrated with those delays instigated by the decision makers/politicians, who usually knows nothing about the workings of a project ( from professional point of view). The ownership fight evolves around the project, while service delivery is at stake.”
My friend who appeared to be completely absorbed in his thoughts, raised his head and said “sorry what did you say?”….
Great conference I enjoyed every bit of it…
The only remark is that all the awards focused on water treatment and new processes…water science has many fields of research that cannot be ignored. Researches in water resources, water management and water transportation have been totally ignored. While water treatment represents about 5% to 10% of the cost of the system, the institute (WISA) cannot and should ignore other disciplines. Water is a science that cuts across several trades and not only biology or chemistry.
Private sector participation in the development of water infrastructure pro-poor, or Africa’s Developing Countries, requires rethinking the design of both water sector transactions and the regulations.
The water services sector has many uncertainties, either natural, governmental or financial. The private sector investment in the water services can only be addressed in light of the financial risks foreseen, investment returns, possible sector incentives and its impacts on the quality of life for urban poor.
In the Developing Countries of Africa, where the majority of its population is poor, the traditional models or approaches to private participation in water sector can unavoidably erect barriers to improving service for low-income households in developing countries. The current approach frequently involves exclusive control of a local monopoly over a long period and an obligation to provide service to all or to all who request it within the area of exclusivity
A project finance structure which allows water projects - with attractive cash flow and risk profiles - to secure long term private capital, has become increasingly pivotal in international financial allocations and the nations’ budgeting process. Financing water projects is now conditional on two local factors: first to have an attractive cash flow and second an attractive risk profile. In other words it should have a low risk profile, which many of African urban, let alone low-income or rural, communities lack.
Some of the water sector challenges are:
(a) Water is expensive to convey or transport but comparatively cheap to store.
(b) Most of water industry infrastructure is buried which makes it difficult to assess. This might result in difficulties in investment’s planning and pose risks for contract design and negotiation.
(c) Significant currency risk, as customer pay in local/domestic currency that does not match international debt and equity financing.
(d) So far, little competition has been introduced in the different components of water supply.
The first wave of privatisation of the water industry was driven by the international donors and financiers to Sub-Saharan Africa as the only way for service delivery. The commercialisation of water services was suggested through 2 models: the French model of PSP (management concessions), and the English model of PSP (the fixed assets and management concessions). The latter was shunned by the investors due to the high cost of investment, lack of accurate information on water assets, the over employment in the water sector, and low financial and economic endowment of the communities served.