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The World Bank has approved a US$38mn loan to Tunisia’s National Public Water Supply Utility (Sonede) – with the guarantee of the Republic of Tunisia – for an urban water supply project.

Tunisia has achieved the highest access rates to water supply and sanitation services among middle-income countries in the Mena region through sound infrastructure policy. Some 96% of urban dwellers and 52% of the rural population already have access to improved sanitation.

By the end of 2006, access to safe drinking water will be close to universal (approaching 100% in urban areas and 90% in rural areas).

However, the water supply sector faces specific challenges, including increased demands and scarce resources, and Sonede must strengthen its efficiency while delivering high quality water and customer service.

The project aims at sustaining the reliability and quality of water service in Greater Tunis and selected urban centres, through augmentation, upgrade and renewal of the water supply infrastructure; and enhancing the competitiveness and sustainability of Sonede operations, through modernisation of management practices and information systems, for better cost control, enhanced revenue and more responsive customer service.
“This is the ninth project financed by the World Bank for Sonede, since the agency’s inception in 1968,” comments Pier Mantovani, the task team leader. “We are dealing with a mature strong performer, seeking higher efficiency in its transition from expansion to consolidation.”

The project combines infrastructure and capacity building components:

  • Infrastructure components represent priority needs towards avoiding service deficits as early as 2010 and meeting demands through 2025. The project will improve the water supply systems in Sonede’s Greater Tunis, North and Central operating regions.

  • Capacity building components include the development of studies and decision-making tools, as well as the modernisation of key information systems, to enable higher performance in utility management, planning, cost control and customer service.

    The loan is in line with the World Bank’s 2004 Country Assistance Strategy for Tunisia which seeks to improve the competitiveness of the Tunisian economy and its private sector and to improve the quality of social services.
    The project will also help Tunisia achieve key environmental and health millennium development goals (MDGs) by financing the expansion of good quality potable water supply services.

    In particular, it supports Tunisia’s goals for the water supply sector and a slice of corresponding investments set up in its Tenth Economic Development Plan (2002-06).

    The project will use a specific investment loan to Sonede, with a guarantee by the government of Tunisia. The loan will be issued by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), an arm of the World Bank Group which provides loans and technical assistance to middle-income countries.