Jun 7, 2011

A parable of economic development

In a picturesque neighborhood of Guatemala, which name I don't want to remember, there are around twenty households. It is located by a dirty broken road going to Guatemala City. 
One of the main problems neighbors complain about is the poor quality of water. The water looks brownish, dirty, and sandy. This has gone on for more than a year. Although they do not drink the water, they use it to bath, to wash cloths and brush their teeth. It was complained recently that some kids are getting sick due to the water. Some households have bought water filters and water containers, which are not cheap.
A closer examination of the situation lead two people to look at the root of the problem: the two water deposits located uphill. One of them was very dirty, 7 dollars were paid to clean the deposit, it was done in 8 hours, and the quality of water improved significantly. 
Why did it take so long to address this problem that had a easy and quick solution? Did people overestimate the cost of a solution? Could’t they solve a collective action problem?
One wonders how many of the problems in developing countries are of this nature.

1 comment:

  1. Probably many. But do you know who paid the $7 for the clean up?