Keeping Jordan’s Privatized Water Sector Afloat
Water is in short supply in Jordan. To meet the needs of an increasingly modern country, the nation’s leaders must be judicious in how they allocate their water resources for various uses. Due to international pressure, the Jordanian government has trended lately towards corporatization in the water services sector, and it has given private partners substantial responsibility in managing its water supply. But with the great difficulty of regulating a newly liberalized sector, how have Jordan’s water resources fared?
In her dissertation, Nancy Odeh (PhD ‘09) looked at various manifestations of public-private partnerships in the Jordanian water
sector. She found that the effectiveness of private firms—measured both by the quality, sustainability, and efficiency of the water supply as well as the affordability of the new contractual arrangements—was a direct result of the configuration of the organizational and legal context in which the partnership was formed.
Nancy found that Jordanian authorities had erred in several ways when decentralizing their water management system. For example, while contracts tended to be rigid and stifling in urban areas, rural partners were given too much discretion and weren’t held accountable to performance standards. The difficulty in determining an appropriate method of regulation was enhanced by an entrenched system of patronage within Jordanian government.
Nancy suggested best practices for the country to adopt in managing its water supply. These include forming contracts that clearly define targets for private partners, consistently including partners in decision-making and information-sharing processes, and fortifying the legal structures that hold private water suppliers accountable to consumers. To effectively liberalize its water sector, Jordan must build a regulatory system that motivates private actors to work in the public interest. Read more about Nancy’s work and her recommendations in her dissertation.