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Assessing Urban Governance

The Case of Water Service Co-production in Venezuela


Luisa Moretto

When examining the relationship between urban governance and improved service provision in the Global South, there is frequently a gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Informal, practice-based local governance processes that aim to produce better urban services often diverge from official governance prescriptions and mechanisms for service delivery within the institutional sphere. This book explores the complex area of urban governance assessment, focusing on the issue of sustainable water supplies for the urban poor.
Adapting the UN-Habitat Urban Governance Index, the author explores the dual nature of urban governance, analyzing its formal dimension at the municipal level but also taking account of informal and locally specific governance arrangements aimed at improving access to basic services. Water service co-production strategies involving both public institutions and organized groups of citizens in Venezuela provide an excellent case study of this phenomenon. The book illustrates the limitations of official governance assessment tools in appreciating the extent and vibrancy of local practices and agreements, as well as investigating the discrepancies between normative prescriptions and governance arrangements on the ground.
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Chapter 1 Urban Governance and Water Supply Systems


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Urban Governance and Water Supply Systems

1.1. Urban Governance and Neoliberalism

Ronald Coase, in his article The Nature of the Firm (1937), is recognised as the first exponent of the neo-liberal governance concept. He used this term to describe the relationships of co-ordination and co-operation inside an enterprise to reduce the transaction costs generated by the market. In the 1970s and 1980s, this concept was rediscovered by some economists and termed “corporate governance” or “governance structures” to simplify and rationalise the organisation of enterprises following the principles of economic efficiency and managerial effectiveness (see for instance Brown, 2001; Osmont, 2002; Miegeville et al., 2003; Maloutas and Malouta, 2004).

Born in the context of the efficient management of enterprises, the concept of governance has been transferred to the public sphere and tasked with coping with the increasing reduction of financial resources being experienced above all by local and urban administrations (Brown, 2001). This process took place during the 1980s in the cities of both developed and developing countries. Borrowing this concept from the managerial field, municipal administrations have begun to manage cities focusing on productivity rather than on their welfare in terms of housing, infrastructure and basic needs (Halfani et al., 1995; Harvey, 2005; Guarneroz-Meza and Geddes, 2010; Didier et al., 2012). Cities have thus increasingly represented a strategic actor from the perspective of a neoliberal type of development, and urban governance the process to guaranteeing neoliberalism in...

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