Illustrating Water and Austerity – The Troikatastrophe

by Aneesa Khan

What would voting “yes” at the referendum on Sunday mean for the people of Greece? It would be a giant aye to the creditors to go ahead with bailout impositions upon the country – impositions that hit the citizens the hardest. These austerity measures (like pension cuts, privatization of public resources like water and motorways, increased taxes and reductions in government spending) are in theory supposed to reel the country out of its financial crisis. However, in reality, they decelerate the economy and cause deterioration in the standard of living of the people along with a denial of basic amenities and rights (the IMF itself recognized this).

If all this sounds confusing and vague, fear no more – we have created a mini-graphic novel to explain the situation as it applies to water privatization in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Check out the comic after the jump.

This referendum would not be the first time that these international creditors jump in with their Hail Mary pass to save the European Union’s economy. Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland have had the impractical austerity measures imposed upon them by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission (better known as the Troika) since the Eurozone crisis began. One of these forced propositions was the privatization of water in these countries – sell the public services, and use the money to pay off the debt.

When water is a commons and not a commodity, when water is a human right and not a service to be auctioned, when water is an obligation and responsibility for governments to provide to their populations, how can it be liberalized and given to the market to be privatized and sold? This approach of the Troika promised better services, when in the end all it meant was that if you could afford the better services then you were good to go, but if you couldn’t afford them, well then, too bad. This “no money, no water” outlook stimulated the massive movement for the right to water throughout the EU, especially in the countries hit by the financial crisis and the Troika. It led to protests, referendums, and a call for affordable and accessible public water, where cooperation came before competition.

“The Troikatastrophe – They’re Taking the Waters” is an attempt at illustrating the damage done by the austerity measure of water privatization, but also the movement and fight of everyday citizens  for a fair and just system that respects the right to water and sanitation.

As they are rallied to vote “No” to austerity in perpetuity by their government and as they are told to vote “Yes” along with threats of a Grexit from the creditors, it is time to show solidarity with the people of Greece. There is hope after default, but what remains after austerity?


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