A campaign promise from current governor Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans), the possible privatization of the Basic Sanitation Company of the State of São Paulo (Sabesp) will bring serious harm to the population, according to experts who experience the company’s day-to-day activities. In addition to there being no potential for cost reduction, a drop in the quality of the water offered is expected.
In a press conference organized by the Center for Alternative Media Studies Barão de Itararé this Friday (15), the vice-president of the Union of Workers in Water, Sewage and the Environment of the State of São Paulo (Sintaema), Helena Maria da Silva , and the director of the Sabesp University Professionals Association (APU), Amauri Pollachi, highlighted that the risks are great, and some problems are already felt.
“Today, Sabesp, due to savings, to meet investors, the profit target, has already reduced the quality of services. You no longer have your own workforce to maintain the company. Maintenance today is carried out by contractors, who They don’t have courses, they don’t have the preparation to do a good job. We even have a high rate of complaints from the population because we no longer have our own employees. The company has been outsourcing all services”, denounced Silva.
Read more: Datafolha: Tarcísio’s priority, privatization of Sabesp is rejected by the majority of São Paulo residents
Currently a mixed-economy company – state-controlled, but with shares traded on the stock exchange –, Sabesp serves 375 municipalities in São Paulo where 28.4 million people live. In 2022, it announced a profit of R$3.12 billion, a volume 35% higher than the R$2.3 billion in 2021.
“Who is going to buy Sabesp? They are large international funds, and we already have companies here on the market that are financed by funds from Canada, Singapore, South Korea, other parts of the world and large Brazilian banks. Who is going to buy it is a large financial conglomerate, any operator. What for? To lower tariffs? Tell this story to someone else, there is no such thing”, added Pollachi.
The APU director also pointed out that there is a determination to “deteriorate and disqualify” the company’s service provision with a view to possible privatization. Professionals with decades of experience are leaving key positions to maintain the structures that guarantee the distribution of water throughout the state.
“Sabesp’s management is avoiding entering into any type of contract that goes beyond July 2024, as that is the date on which it intends to hand over the keys to the company. It is no longer hiring, it is no longer renewing assets, it is no longer working strong in reducing losses, in other words: services are already deteriorating today. The service that was good six months ago is worse today”, he stated.
For the vice-president of Sintaema, the population needs to be aware of the risks they are taking. She recalls that public water treatment and supply services that were privatized in other parts of the world were renationalized to ensure better delivery of services.
“We here in the state of São Paulo, with Tarcísio’s government, are going against the grain of the world. Sanitation is a good for the population and it has to be very well preserved. What he is doing is absurd and there is no point in saying that It will lower the price. It won’t”, he summarized.
The São Paulo government, through the Secretariat of Environment, Infrastructure and Logistics (Semil), told Brasil de Fato that Sabesp “already adopts the most advanced management, ethics and compliance practices, including when hiring its suppliers”.
The secretariat guaranteed that the transfer process to the private sector will ensure the improvement of services and that the concession contracts will provide for quality targets and investments that will allow for the universalization of sanitation services in the state to be brought forward.
The note sent also states that the privatization project “seeks to place the company on a new level, making it a multinational sanitation platform, capable of competing for concessions outside the state of São Paulo and even abroad.”
“Regarding international examples, the Government of the State of SP analyzed cases of private sanitation concessions around the world, and we incorporated the lessons learned into the modeling adopted here. Among them, we can highlight three aspects that make the difference in our options: guaranteeing in contract that investments are focused on bringing sanitation to the most vulnerable population, establishing tariff regulation that provides tariff predictability and a regulatory model that encourages investments and improvements in the quality of services”, the text continues.
Editing: Rodrigo Chagas