Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Govt to let councils set water rates

Source: Jakarta Post

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Following the enactment of a controversial water resources law, the government is expected to surrender its power to determine water rates and manage regional tap water companies to regional consultative councils.

Patana Rantetoding, the director general of city and village affairs of the public works ministry, said on Monday the issue would be covered in a government regulation on the development of tap water systems.

The government regulation will be passed in support of Law No. 4/2004 on water resources. The government is currently completing the draft of the regulation.

"Consultative councils, according to the draft of the government regulation, are legislative councils located in state-owned and regional-owned tap water companies," Patana was quoted by Antara as saying.

He said the councils would consist of both members of society as well as representatives of the central government and local administrations.

During a discussion on the draft regulation, Patana said the main duties of the council would be to set water rates and to appoint directors of regional tap water companies, a privilege currently in the hands of local administrations.

"The rates will be based on local income levels. That is why it must be decided by consultative councils," Patana said.

These councils also will be able to rule on the possible involvement of the public sector, including cooperatives and public groups, in the tap water business, he said.

"The private sector will be allowed to participate in the business with the consent of a consultative council," Patana said.

He said the approximately 300 regional tap water companies (PDAM) were still unable to deliver water to the majority of Indonesians.

"With some 95,500 cubic meters a second, the PDAMs can only deliver water to some 40 million customers. With this capacity, it should be able to fill the needs of some 100 million customers," Patana said.

Separately, activist Nila Ardhiani of the People's Coalition for Water Access criticized the draft regulation, saying it would result in a heavier burden on the people, particularly the poor.

"The government is creating too many new institutions for the water sector. Who will pay for those institutions? I fear that it will influence the tap water rates," she said.

Nila also questioned whether the government would be able to guarantee that members of the consultative councils would really represent the public.

"How can they guarantee the members will not represent just the interests of the private sector?" she asked, criticizing the government for its half-hearted attempt to involve the public in drafting the regulation.

Indonesia's water resources law has been roundly criticized for, among other things, encouraging the privatization of the water sector.

Activists have brought the law to the Constitutional Court for a judicial review.