The meeting sought to not only discuss key issues in water management financing, but to identify potential policies for pricing, efficiency, equity and sustainability in the water sector. The Ministers signed a Decision Paper endorsing:
• A regional regulatory framework for setting appropriate water rates and tariffs be established;
• Dialogues on water financing opportunities should be widened to include Ministers with responsibilities for Finance, Energy, Environment, Health, Agriculture and Tourism;
• Sustainable cost recovery measures for water utilities should be introduced;
• Regional committees should be set-up for follow-up and compliance with HLS Decisions;
• Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) should be used as the tool for effective water management;
• An enabling policy environment should be created to mobilise multilateral, regional and bilateral resources for the implementation of IWRM plans in the region.
Discussions, experiences and national perspectives presented by various regional water utility managers on water financing in the Caribbean, highlighted the dire need for innovative ways of managing and financing the water sector in the Caribbean. Participants gave suggestions on resourceful ways of managing water such as the use of small community-based water supply systems; rainwater harvesting cross-subsidies that are targeted, well defined, transparent, reliable, practical; and sustainable water augmentation techniques.
It was felt that if there isn’t a sufficient charge attached to water, the service would deteriorate in the long-term. Additionally, participants expressed that if water is not taken seriously as a business, water utilities would have the enduring problem of looking for funding instead of funds from their own profits.
A commercial business approach of the utilities was seen as a means of helping utilities focus on efficiency and collection of revenues as full cost recovery was cited as an imperative goal that should be adopted by all water utilities. Mr. Glenn Khan, Deputy Executive Director of the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) who led discussions on good practices in water financing and water pricing said “Full cost recovery should be the goal of every utility.”
The Honourable Guy Joseph, Minister of Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities of St. Lucia, raised the issue of the massive loans held by water utilities. He said these loans have hindered the utilities from meeting the needs of the customers they serve.
The question of how well water has been marketed in the region was also raised when compared to electricity and telecommunication services. Water is more important to families than many of these other services but it is often not given a high priority on their list of monthly expenses. This highlighted a serious need for greater water education at all levels.
(Photo: Participants at the 7th Meeting of Caribbean Ministers of Water, held in Guadeloupe on October 6th - 7th, 2011. Front Row (Left - Right): Honourable Dr. Earl Martin, Minister of Housing, Public Utilities, Public Works and Energy of St. Kitts; Honourable Reginald Austrie, Minister of Lands, Housing, Settlements and Water Resource Management of Dominica; Ms. Avril Alexander, Regional Coordinator of GWP-C; Mr. Trevor Thompson, Chair of GWP-C; Mr. Wayne Williams, President of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA); Honourable Joseph Gilbert, Minister of Environment, Foreign Trade and Export Development of Grenada; Mr. Lewis Lakeman, Assistant Vice President of Strategic Planning, National Water Commission (Jamaica); and Mr. Victor Poyotte, Executive Director of the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association (CAWASA). Missing from this photo is the Honourable Guy Joseph, Minister of Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities of St. Lucia.)