Inderscience Publishers

Mimicking the private sector: new public management in the water supply and sanitation sector

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In addition to the increase of private sector participation over the past decades, the private sector has impacted the water supply and sanitation sector in another way, by serving as an example for reforming public utilities. Most notably, the management practices of utilities appear to have been copied from the private sector, as well as the institutional arrangements under which the utilities operate. The underlying assumption is that by mimicking the practices of 'private sector' organisations, public sector organisations will accrue the benefits of effectiveness, efficiency and flexibility that are often associated with private sector organisations. Concerns can be raised, however, over whether this reform strategy will prove as successful in the water and sanitation sector as many of its advocates claim. In recent years the water supply and sanitation sector in Zambia has been subject to reforms, which show considerable similarity with reforms that are often placed under the heading of the New Public Management (NPM). In the second part of this article, the Zambian reforms are described and the performance impact of the reforms for the case of the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company are assessed. The article finds that the impacts on performance have been very limited and raises the question if the water supply and sanitation sector in Zambia has required pre-requisites to make the NPM-type reforms as success.

Keywords: new public management, NPM, utility reform, water utilities, Zambia, water supply, sanitation

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