Estimated to pay off at a rate of up to nine to one, the case for public investment in sanitation is unequivocal. Yet what frequently stands in the way is that authorities simply don’t have the large sums needed to pay for piped sanitation. In this context, the key point about CBS is that it offers the same benefits — the safe collection of waste and its transport to a place where it can be treated and re-used — at a fraction of the capital cost of sewers.
This a significant point and it’s why municipal authorities should consider CBS carefully when thinking about how they can bring improved sanitation to their hardest-to-reach populations. A public-private partnership (PPP) model of provision could be based on CBS providers contracting directly with authorities, installing and maintaining toilets, and managing waste collection for entire communities, in return for a monthly service fee. Municipal authorities could make service provision a more attractive proposition to local entrepreneurs in several ways — from directly subsidizing CBS providers’ revenues, to bearing (or providing soft loans to meet) their upfront capital costs, to providing tax breaks.
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Obvious benefits over the private enterprise model — higher customer densities, more straightforward and reliable revenue streams, and reduced customer acquisition and capital costs — would certainly reduce risk substantially and encourage more entrepreneurs and investors toward CBS. It could also lower costs and improve services for customers, with them not only benefiting from service quality being bound by service level agreements, but possibly even higher quality and more durable toilets made affordable through subsidization. Indeed, given the significant question mark over the likelihood of toilets of sufficiently low cost and long life spans (see Building Block 3), this may be the only way that CBS can be made viable in most circumstances.