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Opinion / Editorial

Concession water?

Concession water?

Albania is one of the richest countries in Europe for water resources per capita. The current capacity of our drinking water sources exceeds the country's need for water by 3 times. But the legacy of a poor system of bringing water to our homes, mismanagement, indifference, abuse has been extremely severe in nearly 30 years and our water supply from the public system still carries major problems. Although this current drinking water supply system produces 28 percent more water than is needed for supply, over 70 percent of citizens do not receive water 24 hours a day! The problem lay with most of the 58 water supply and sewage companies in the 61 municipalities of the country. They continued to have weak indicators, both technical and financial, providing low quality of service to the population and businesses, even making it impossible to provide services to the most vulnerable population, in the peripheral and rural areas of the country. We have suburbs of cities and entire villages that do not have proper water supply systems, and we even have a lack of pipes and sewers. Still, unfortunately, about 20 percent of the rural population is not covered by the water pipeline network. Most of the water companies, 37 out of 58 of them, until a few years ago, depended almost entirely on central government funding. Faced with this situation, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy launched a deep reform of the water supply in 2022. This reform plan attracted the confidence of the World Bank and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). On May 13, 2022, the Board of Directors of the World Bank decided on financing for the water reform in Albania, which includes a soft loan of 75 million US dollars and a grant (gift fund) of 6.3 million US dollars, financed by Swiss SECO. These days, in a draft law submitted for public consultation by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy "On the sector of drinking water supply, removal, collection and treatment of urban wastewater", this ministry offers 3 options (alternatives) to improve the state of this sector, where one of them is the possibility of granting a water supply concession. It is one of the possibilities, as are all drinking water systems in the region and beyond in Europe. It is not that all 15 regional water supply companies will be privatized with the drop of a pencil from today. No! But the possibility (alternative) that, after a well-thought-out and well-prepared study, an interested private provider, who meets certain conditions, can be allowed (granted with the right concession), well observed, to provides drinking and quality water to an area of ??the country, there is no reason why it should not be on the solution table. The plan is ambitious, but will this lead to an increase in the price of drinking water for citizens, when they still have deposits, below or above the buildings? No! No way. With this draft law, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and the National Water and Sewerage Agency (AKUM) seek to better manage the established regional water companies, giving them three options. The first, through performance contracts, concluded between AKUM and the respective municipalities. These contracts define the indicators, which will be achieved on an annual basis, by the former water and sewerage companies. In the event that in one or two years, these indicators are not met, the water and sewerage companies will not stand idly by, waiting for money only from the central government and continuing to be in debt with OSHEE and taxes, but will have the opportunity, either to be given a concession, or, when they have no hope, to be directed by the structure that in the draft law is called the operator of the last alternative, mainly a state structure, which will manage the former problematic water supply and sewerage company in a state of emergency , until switching to another solution. This is the truth of the super expensive concession waterworks, which are being trumpeted without any basis, that with this bill turned into law, they will envelop the body of Albania, like cancer metastases. All the countries of the region have concession water supply. They are well-supervised and legally well-regulated structures. Such will be the water supply concessions in Albania, if we will have one, at a different time than now, as a legal solution and a concrete opportunity for us as well, but not burdening the citizens with the water tariff.