Saturday’s Global Infrastructure Forum was full of firsts: this unprecedented daylong gathering in Washington, DC brought together the leaders of the multilateral development banks (MDBs), as well as development partners and representatives of the G20, G-24, and G-77, the OECD, the Global Infrastructure Hub and the United Nations. All shared the goal of enhancing multilateral collaboration to improve infrastructure delivery globally.
Is it possible to complete advanced contracting for the construction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines within two or three months and have the lines in operation within six months?
The simple answer is, yes.
The China Urumqi Urban Transport Project II, a US$537 million project, achieved just this as it looked to improve mobility in selected transport corridors in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province in West China.
Two questions worth debating are whether we might soon see a renaissance in public private partnerships (PPPs) in urban water supply and services, and whether PPPs are a good way for water companies in developing countries to reduce their staggering level of water losses.
These pressing issues demand our attention because an inordinately high level of water losses – up to 50 percent of water entering the distribution system – burdens water companies and customers in developing countries. More precisely, the culprit is “non-revenue water” (NRW): both physical losses (leakage and bursts) and commercial losses (poor customer databases, meter inaccuracies, and illegal connections).
The consensus is that there is no lack of technical solutions to the NRW problem. In the concluding sessions of a recent conference on water losses in Bangalore, India (February 1–3), organized by the International Water Association (IWA), experts spoke of the need for a “change in mind-set” if the problem of NRW is to be given sufficient attention by politicians and utility managers. True enough, but how exactly do you do that?
The PPI database suggests that approximately 40 percent of all projects are valued at less than $50 million, and approximately 25 percent of all projects are less than $25 million (Figure below). However, the database misses out on projects in several emerging sectors at the sub-national level. While non-traditional sectors are captured in country and sub-national databases, few of these databases are readily available in the public domain.
“In my mind, I’m goin’ to Carolina,” sang North Carolina native James Taylor – but he probably wasn’t traveling there on a road funded through a public-private partnership (PPP). That’s because PPPs in the United States are not as prevalent as in other regions of the world. The reasons are varied, but it’s in large part because each state is responsible for setting its own transportation strategy and financing plan. Furthermore, U.S. state and subnational entities have traditionally benefited from an active municipal bond market that has allowed them to access monies from the capital market.
But a recent project in a commuter corridor in North Carolina might change the way people travel around the state. Based in Charlotte, the largest city, the I-77 is the region’s first transportation PPP. This innovative US$650 million brownfield project combines private sector know-how with an efficient use of public funding structures, and could be a model for other U.S.-based transportation projects. In fact, some of the lessons from this project could also offer a way for other countries to develop public support mechanisms.
The enchanting city of Saint Petersburg, Russia, boasts the canals of Venice, the cathedrals of Paris, the architecture of Stockholm, and the non-stop festival atmosphere of white nights in July and August. It is Russia’s second largest city, with around 4 million people and a bustling economy. Saint Petersburg has also learned hard-won lessons in public-private partnership (PPP) creation and implementation, including:
Lesson 1: Start with the basics
Saint Petersburg started with very big, very bold PPP projects, like a €6 billion toll road and a €1 billion tunnel, followed by a €1 billion light rail line and a €1.2 billion airport expansion. The toll road and tunnel came to bid in late 2008, mid-financial crisis—leading to Lesson 1a: Timing is everything. But rather than get discouraged, the city restructured the tunnel, flipping it around so that the concessionaire finalized the design first, thereby delaying the search for financing until the markets could recover. The toll road bid process was cancelled and the project broken up (more on this later). The light rail project was also restructured to fit with evolving ridership in the city. The airport, the last project to be launched, was the first to reach financial close, so here we simply note that hard currency revenues and an existing asset and revenue stream are convenient advantages when financial markets are lean. Lesson 1b: Roll with the punches.
Translation of PPP Reference Guide into Bahasa Indonesia strongly supports national PPP delivery efforts
Indonesia’s strategy to become one of the 10 major world economies by 2025 – part of a long-term program outlined in its Masterplan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia's Economic Development (MP3EI) – relies heavily on how quickly it can build new infrastructure to support its rapid growth. This entails cooperation among the central government, local governments, state owned enterprises, and the private sector. Of the four parties, according to experts on the ground, “the private sector has a vital role to play in this masterplan (in the form of PPP schemes), as it is expected to contribute the bulk of financing.”
Since the beginning of time, women have been at a disadvantage when looking for financial loans. One reason is that women have less control over land and assets that can be used as traditional collateral. This puts a real damper on her ability to launch an enterprise or, even when she manages to launch one successfully, to take it to the next level.
In Africa, women’s entrepreneurial knack is self-evident to anyone who sets foot on the continent—just look at any roadside! So, this problem is likely quite costly and holding back development. Can we solve it somehow?
As it happens, the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab, an entity that spun off from Harvard’s Center for International Development in 2010, has developed a tool using something called “psychometric testing”, which measures personal characteristics such as knowledge, skills, education, abilities, attitudes and personality traits as a means to predict how likely it is a person will pay back a loan. And it is proving quite effective. Could this be a way to finally help find a solution for women who don’t have any credit history or hold formal title to assets that are traditionally accepted as collateral?
The World Bank Group’s Global Practice for Finance and Markets (GFMDR) started thinking seriously about this, and worked to see it if it could be integrated in a Bank-funded project in Ethiopia (the Women Entrepreneurship Development Project, US$50m). Francesco Strobbe leads the project team, and started to discuss the issue with us in the World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Innovation Lab (GIL). “I thought this was a great opportunity to test some innovative measures to see if we could reach a real breakthrough with much potential for women entrepreneurs—in Ethiopia and elsewhere.”
One of the major issues in the Open Working Group’s outcome report on the shape of the post-2015 agenda is the availability and access to financing to allow the goals to be met. There is a great temptation to simply try and calculate the financing needs for each goal and add them up to get the total financing need. Because this approach seems simple, it is appealing to many. The problem is that it is conceptually wrong.
If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.