The public hearing that discussed the privatization of Sabesp (Companhia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo) in the Legislative Assembly ended in arguments this Thursday (16) between protesters against and in favor of the privatization of the company.
Trade union centers and social movements such as CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores), the Subway Workers’ Union, Apeoesp (state teachers’ union), among others, demonstrated against privatization in front of Alesp with a sound car, and the Police The military blocked one of the roads leading to the House.
On the right, groups such as the MBL (Movimento Brasil Livre) defended the project of governor Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans). To avoid friction, the groups entered the building through access on different streets.
Within Alesp, 132 access bracelets were distributed to each side of the debate. With banners for and against privatization, the protesters applauded and booed depending on the debater.
The president of Alesp, André do Prado (PL), threatened to end the public hearing a number of times if the public did not remain silent. The Military Police had to remove some protesters from the plenary.
Natália Resende, Secretary of Environment, Infrastructure and Logistics, defended the government’s project.
According to her, with a reduction in state participation from 50.1% to between 15% and 30%, but maintaining a “golden share” quota that allows vetoes in company management decisions, Sabesp will be able to attract investments to anticipate universalization sanitation and reduce the tariff paid by the population.
According to Resende, under state control the company has debt capacity with a profit of R$31.2 billion. Capitalizing on government actions, the value rises to R$66 billion.
The argument for reducing the tariff is one of the most contested among opponents of the measure.
Amauri Pollachi, director of the Association of University Professionals at Sabesp and former president of the Alto Tietê River Basin Committee, pointed out that the amount charged in São Paulo is lower than that of other cities where the service is privatized in the country: 56% less than in Rio and 87.4% than in Campo Grande.
The opposition emphasizes that the company has a surplus and is one of the largest sanitation companies in the world, so there would be no reason to sell it — in 2022, Sabesp recorded a net profit of R$3.12 billion.
In response, the government leader, Jorge Wilson (Republicans), stated that he knows “that Sabesp is a positive company, but it can improve a lot”.
The government’s position is that regulatory agencies will continue to act on the company to guarantee the quality of the service provided — an argument rejected by opponents, who stated that the agencies are captured by the companies they are supposed to supervise.
Amid comparisons with the service provided by Enel, a private company that distributes energy in the city of São Paulo and left more than 2 million people in the dark 10 days ago, Resende sought to distance himself from the model.
The secretary stated that the infrastructure is underground, not aerial, therefore less exposed; that the impact of interruptions is reduced, as there is storage in water tanks, which does not happen in the energy sector (as batteries are less common) and that regulation and inspection of sanitation is at the state level, while that of energy is federal.
The comparison, however, was reinforced in a series of arguments from the project’s opposition. “The Enel of today is the Sabesp of tomorrow”, said Débora Lima, coordinator of the MTST, who spoke at the hearing.
Other moments heated up the public, such as when deputy Guto Zacarias (União Brasil), deputy leader of the government and member of the MBL, stated that the company does a “stupid job”.
Among the audience who spoke was also the former president of the sanitation company Gesner Oliveira, who defended the privatization of the company. The president of the Metro Workers Union, Camila Lisboa, made comparisons with the high failure rate of the privatized CPTM lines, 8-Diamante and 9-Esmeralda.
The public hearing took place while the Assembly is forwarding the company’s privatization project, now in the so-called “congress of committees”, an expedient used by parliamentarians to speed up the processing of priority issues.
The topic should be passed separately to different committees, such as Constitution, Justice and Writing and Finance, Budget and Planning, among others. The committee congress, in turn, brings together the different groups to approve the proposal all at once.
The group began meeting last Thursday (9), but, faced with the possibility of approval, the opposition tried to drag out the procedures as long as possible, at least until the public hearing took place.
The PT prepared a report to be read at the hearing with 1,174 pages, with long excerpts copied from the internet that explain the states of the water, citing Chinese legends and even recalling the history of Mesopotamia.
In a slow and paused tone, the party dragged the reading through different sessions, until reaching an agreement on Tuesday (14) with the situation and interrupting the reading of the report — according to the parliamentarians, after achieving the objective of delaying the vote until public hearing took place.
Now, the project must be discussed again at the committee congress next Tuesday (21) and be discussed in two sessions. The following week, it goes to the plenary, where it must receive amendments and return to the committee conference.
According to the schedule agreed between parliamentarians, it must return to the plenary to be voted on by all parliamentarians on December 5th.
According to the Panel column, government deputies hope to vote on it on December 12th. 48 votes from the 94 deputies are needed to approve the privatization, which is carried out through an ordinary bill — the opposition takes the issue to court to try to force the government to send a PEC, which requires three-fifths of the votes.