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Revisiting the Public–Private Partnership for Rapid Progress on the Sanitation-Related Sustainable Development Goals

Publication | May 2020
Revisiting the Public–Private Partnership for Rapid Progress on the Sanitation-Related Sustainable Development Goals

Providing safely managed sanitation services for all requires extending the partnership between the public and private sectors.

Rapid progress on the sanitation-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is one of the most formidable challenges facing our world. Globally, 61% people lack access to safely managed sanitation services (WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme 2017). The sanitation challenges are particularly severe in East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Capital requirements for providing access to safely managed sanitation services are projected to be huge, and government finances for the same are not sufficient. On the other hand, private sector investment in the water and sanitation sector, especially in the sanitation sector, has remained low in Asian regions, specifically in South Asia. A recent study by ADB estimates the infrastructure needs of the water and sanitation sector in Asia up to 2030 to amount to $787 billion in 2015 prices (ADB 2017 cited in Yoshino et al. 2019), against a backdrop where the current public tax expenditures are not sufficient, and the level of total private investment in the water and sanitation sector in South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific is close to just $3 billion per year. Increasing private sector participation is thus considered a critical component in solving the SDG sanitation challenge.

Key points
  • From a citywide sanitation perspective, providing safely managed sanitation services for all requires extending the partnership between the public and private sectors as well as expanding state penetration across the sanitation value chain.
  • The private players are willing to innovate and commit for the long term as the sanitation market is generally seen as having potential.
  • While the private sector sees indirect service provision by the state as an opportunity, the lack of state penetration in sanitation service provision is a challenge.
  • The solutions for sustainable sanitation must be technology driven. As a way forward, the private sector and development partners can be tasked with research and development of new technologies, but public support is necessary for financing manufacturing firms or training centers to achieve quality products at affordable prices.
Policy Brief No: 2020-2