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Assessing Urban Governance

The Case of Water Service Co-production in Venezuela

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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 3 Co-producing Water Services in Venezuela

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CHAPTER 3

Co-producing Water Services in Venezuela

3.1. Operational and normative framework for water supply in Venezuela

Institutional framework for water provisions

The state-owned water enterprise INOS (Instituto de Obras Sanitarias) was established in 1943 to provide water and sanitation to urban areas, as stated in the Plan Quinquenal 1941-1946 (Marcano, 1993). This national body was characterised by a highly centralised planning and management system designed to supply water to the whole nation and by its prioritisation of sanitation and social solidarity over service quality or economic efficiency (Corrales, 2004). When the INOS was closed in 1991, the strategy was to decentralise service provision to the municipalities that were legally in charge of it, since the 1989 Organic Municipal Government Act. The idea was consistent with the wave of decentralisation programmes endorsed by the government after the Caracazo (1989) to tackle the severe deterioration in basic services, which had partially arisen because of the fall in oil revenues during the 1980s (Goldfrank, 2004). Decentralising services to local governments was also part of the general modernisation process set off in the Venezuelan economy in the 1990s to challenge the centralised and shareholder model of service delivery (Corrales, 1998, 2004). Changes in water service should reflect, in effect, the economic and institutional neoliberal adjustment programmes launched in Venezuela in the late 1980s1, and focus thus on regulatory frameworks to enhance efficiency and quality in service provisions through the introduction of market...

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