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Water and sanitation need boost in Latin America

Water and sanitation service coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean increased by 26 and 27 percent respectively during the 1990s. But to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals there must be much greater improvement: 33 percent in water and 35 percent in sanitation by 2015.

Investments in the two sectors need to reach more than $150 billion in the next 12 years to achieve the goals set for the region. But the trend is disheartening. Low government fiscal capacity, financially and institutionally unsustainable water companies, lack of commitment of relevant stakeholders, national and local jurisdictional conflicts and social and political resistance to water sector reform and tariff adjustments are provoking a fall in investments in these sectors in most countries.

Yet only a sharp increase in the volume of investment in the coming years will enable Latin America and the Caribbean to achieve the coverage required by the Millennium Development Goals.

The Inter-American Development Bank is leading a program to mobilize and unite efforts to overcome the obstacles to investments in water and sanitation.

As a first step, a regional conference will take place in November, at the Bank's Headquarters in Washington D.C., in which representatives of the public and private sectors and international financiers will discuss the obstacles and challenges and work out solutions to revitalize an underperforming sector.

The conference will serve as a launching platform for the Bank to review its policy and tools and devise more effective approaches to tackle this issue and find ways to bridge what appears to be an almost insurmountable investment gap.

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