GATS and the threat to community electricity in SriLanka

proposedpower sector liberalisation will threaten Sri Lanka's highly successful low-cost community-run renewable electricity schemes The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations, to which Sri Lanka is a party, will put pressure on developing country governments to break up their national electricity industries, and open them to international investment. Far from solving its problems, opening up the Sri Lankan electricity industry to international participation could leave the Sri Lankan government with a system that does not work and which, under GATS rules, cannot be abandoned.

Practical Action argues that increasing pressure from the GATS negotiations for developing countries to privatise and liberalise their electricity industries could threaten decentralised, community run schemes. The case of electricity reform in Sri Lanka clearly demonstrates the need for caution as developing countries are pushed towards power sector liberalisation, to safeguard the needs of poor, marginalised communities.

How to Engage with GATS: Practical Action and service provision for the poorest (PDF, 3Mb) 2009
We believe that the GATS process as it stands does not have the potential to develop appropriate, poverty-focused services. This policy document, commissioned by Practical Action from Dr Jonathan Cloke of Newcastle University, details the concerns we have over the existing GATS process, especially with respect to the most vulnerable sectors in the socially structured poverty that exists in the global south: women, indigenous peoples, Dalit communities etc.

GATS & Reforms

A new website from Practical Action South Asia, addressing service sector liberalization from a developmental perspective through informative policy advocacy. This site brings together the studies, analysis and documents generated by the Practical Action GATS and Reforms team.

Buy the full report from
Turning Off the Lights - the threat to community electricity in Sri Lanka

Turning off the Lights: the threat to community electricity in Sri Lanka

Stephen Thomas and Iromi Ruana Rajepakse

The World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) could threaten services and projects specifically aimed at or managed by poor communities. This book explains the nature of that threat. NB: this is a greatly-expanded version of the short report listed above.

ITDG Publishing, April 2005; paperback; 64pp;£7.95

For further information and ordering details, please visit, ITDGPractical Action's online bookshop.

See also:

GATS and the Electricity and Water Sectors, a report by Stephen Thomas and David Hall of the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) at the University of Greenwich, commissioned by Practical Action in 2006.

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS): A Case for Energy Sub-Sector in Kenya Consultancy undertaken for Practical Action by Jasper A. Okelo, School Of Economics, University Of Nairobi, April 2006.

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