I've been playing dodge with Dawasco for the past two months which I don't recommend, by the way, for reasons of it sucks to get your water disconnected. Nope, it's not what you're thinking: I love paying bills. Love it. Makes me feel like a useful piece of meat on this planet, besides which what the hell else is there to do with those colorful bits of paper we call money. Bits of paper for super-clean water that I don't have to go fetch at the well and carry in buckets on my head seems like a fair exchange to me. Mine was an administrative problem.
So anyways, I had to sort it out today and dammit now I have to confess that there might be truth to the idea that privatization can have a positive impact on service provision. Although there was a fair amount of luck involved, I got my connection back within about an hour and a half of wading into said administrative problem. I walked into a public service provider's offices expecting the worst and what I got instead was excellent service, compassion and documentation. What the hell?
I remember sitting in a class about development and the effects of privatizing on access to basic services and making some rather grandiose, socialist statements about that. At the time Dar was in a fiasco, DAWASCO had really dropped the ball and things were not looking good. This helped to fuel my justification, smugness and idealism.
Fast-forward to today, I'm chatting with the engineer who is reconnecting me. Turns out that DAWASCO no longer receives government subsidies. If employees want to get paid they actually have to do the work, collect the revenue, be efficient. They have performance targets, uniforms, and internet connections that work.
Now don't get me wrong here: there is the usual dose of nefariousness involved. DAWASCO rarely actually bills me, they just sort of charge me fines for not paying a bill that I never received. Turns out the trick is to go and pay your bill unasked. Keep One Step Ahead of Extortion is a familiar game for Bongolanders, all you have to do is learn the particularities of each institution. Tanesco doesn't behave like Dawasco, which doesn't behave like TRA and so on and so forth. Oh lord, the fricking migraine of trying to keep documented and on top of the game is monstrous.
Anyways, back to the issue: good things happened today at DAWASCO. The folks there are motivated, efficient, personable and every other adjective I thought I would never use to describe service provision in TZ. Apart from the TANESCO Mikocheni hotline, who are superb... wait... what? Is something happening? Are things actually getting a little bit...better in some departments? I have to go lie down, optimism is too confusing to me right now*.
*Jokes aside: if you've been treated right by a public service provider lately, share your story. Positive reinforcement works.