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Investment to universalize basic services in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030

8 July 2021|Briefing note

On July 8, the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Ms. Alica Bárcena, presented the new special report that examines the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year after its onset. The report entitled “The Paradox of Recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean. Growth with persistent structural issues: inequality, poverty, little investment, and low productivity ” analyzes the behavior of the main economic and social indicators in the region and presents policy proposals to achieve a transformative recovery based on the construction of a new style of development.

Among these proposals stands out the mobilization of investment to universalize the basic services of drinking water, sanitation, and electricity with renewable sources, following the criteria of SDG 6 and 7. The Executive Secretary highlighted that there are 166 million people without water safely managed drinking water and 443 million people without safely managed sanitation in our region. Safely managed drinking water corresponds to drinking water from an improved source located inside the household or on the patio or plot, available when needed and free from fecal contamination and priority chemicals. Safely managed sanitation involves improved facilities that are not shared with other households and where excreta are safely disposed of on-site or transported and treated off-site (WHO / UNICEF, 2019). In the case of our region, a great pending challenge is the treatment of wastewater and the negative impact that this has on health and the environment. Likewise, there are 19 million people without access to electricity and 77 million people without access to fuels and clean technologies for cooking. For these people, the lack of access greatly hinders the possibility of maintaining confinement measures in households promoted by governments to reduce infections.

She also emphasized that the payment waiver measures to avoid cutting off these services taken by governments to alleviate the socioeconomic situation of households during the pandemic for quintiles 1 and 2 of the region for a period of 12 months, represent 0.12%. and 0.29% of annual GDP for the water and electricity sectors respectively. These amounts must be compared with the investment required to close the coverage gap in both sectors by 2030, following the goals stipulated in the Sustainable Development Agenda, which correspond to 1.3% of annual GDP for each sector. According to ECLAC estimates, these investments could generate 3.6 million new jobs per year in the case of drinking water and sanitation and 0.5 million new jobs per year in the case of electricity. Additionally, this investment generates other important economic, social, and environmental benefits. For example, the improvement of public and environmental health, including reducing the pollution of bodies of water, as well as CO2 emissions of around 100 MT. These investments also make it possible to promote the sought-after sustainable water and energy transitions. The water transition proposed by ECLAC has three main goals: i) to universalize access and guarantee the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation managed; ii) reverse the negative externalities (pollution, overexploitation, conflicts) that arise from the current water management model; and, iii) integrate circular water management to take advantage of and reduce pressure on water resources. The energy transition is based on universalizing access based on renewable sources and regional integration, reaching 90% renewability in the electricity grid by 2030.