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Profitability and the poor: corporate strategies, innovation and sustainability

Profitability and the poor: corporate strategies, innovation and sustainability

Hall, David and Lobina, Emanuele ORCID: 0000-0003-4774-0308 (2007) Profitability and the poor: corporate strategies, innovation and sustainability. Geoforum, 38 (5). pp. 772-785. ISSN 0016-7185 (doi:

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Based on empirical evidence, the article looks at the implications of private sector participation (PSP) for the delivery of water supply and sanitation to the urban and peri-urban poor in developing countries, with particular reference to Africa and Latin America. More precisely, the article addresses the impact produced by multinational companies’ (MNCs) strategies, in light of the pursuit of profitability, on the extension of connections to the pipeline network. It does so by questioning the assumptions that greater private sector efficiency and innovation, together with contract design, will enable the sustainable extension of service coverage to low income dwellers. The strategies of the major water MNCs are considered both in relation to the global expansion of their operations and the adjustment of local strategies to commercial considerations. The latter might result in identifying proWtable markets, modifying contractual provisions, attempting to reduce costs and increase income, reducing risks and exiting from non-performing contracts. The evidence reviewed allows for re-assessing the relative roles of the public and private sectors in extending and delivering water services to the poor. First, the most far reaching innovative approaches to extending connections are more likely to come from communities, public authorities and political activity than from MNCs. Secondly, whenever MNCs are liable to exit from non-profitable contracts, the public sector has no other option than to deal with external risks aVecting continuity of provision. Finally, market limitations affecting MNCs’ ability to serve marginal populations and access cheap capital do not apply to well-organised, politically led public sector undertakings

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Water supply and sanitation; Private sector participation; multinational companies, corporate strategy, poverty, access to pipeline network, market failure, public sector, Latin America, Africa
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)
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Last Modified: 29 Jan 2020 09:37

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