Willing to Pay: Competing Paradigms about Resistance to Paying for Water Services in Cairo, Egypt

in Middle East Law and Governance
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Though administrators and end-users are both dissatisfied with water pricing in Egypt, the two groups labor under competing paradigms about what is wrong about the system and why. Water sector agencies and experts from international organizations blame public unwillingness to pay for water at the door of mistaken notions of entitlement, arguing that users do not want to pay because they see water as a gift from the divine and have lingering expectations from a previous social contract requiring the state to provide basic services to citizens. In response to this framing of the problem, the state works to make visible the infrastructural systems that create potable water to justify water costs. This paradigm deliberately misses the point that it is access, quality and cost issues that drive public opposition to paying for water. Based on sixteen months of research in the informal settlement of Ezbet Khairallah in Cairo, Egypt, this article establishes that residents are, in fact, intimately aware of the material and bureaucratic realities of water systems. It is the dysfunctional system and the arbitrary payment systems that put the legitimacy of state claims into question. In this article, I argue that the Egyptian State’s focus on infrastructural legibility as a solution to payment resistance is a way to appear to address citizen concerns without accepting responsibility for continuing problems.

Willing to Pay: Competing Paradigms about Resistance to Paying for Water Services in Cairo, Egypt

in Middle East Law and Governance

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