This past spring, Honduras took an important step in improving transparency and accountability with respect to Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) by launching an online platform that allows public access to detailed information about these activities.
The portal, created with the support of the World Bank and in coordination with the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST), allows access to information related to PPP projects through their entire project cycle. This is a significant achievement that promotes transparency in PPP planning, procurement, implementation and monitoring in Honduras, by making information easily accessible to citizens.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in transport infrastructure can offer significant efficiency gains compared to public procurement options—in the right circumstances. The gains accrue from allocating to the private sector those risks they are better able to handle than the public sector, such as those associated with construction costs.
Data backs this up: findings in Construction Risk in Infrastructure Project Finance from EDHEC show that for a large number of transport infrastructure PPP projects, (including roads), construction overruns are significantly lower at 3.3 percent on average compared to public procurement projects, with a 26.7 percent overrun average.
Photo: Misako Kuniya | Flickr Creative Commons
The time is ripe to explore innovative ways to implement PPPs through a synthesis of sustainable and resilient best practices that progressively improve delivery and outperform original expectations.
During my recent travels as a PPP advisor to Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, I worked closely with public sector leaders who are increasingly focused on procuring a new generation of PPPs that are meaningful, sustainable, resilient, people-focused, and will support their governments’ goals of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A government official from the Balkans had a concern about maturing PPPs in his country. Projects that had been launched at the end of communism were reaching the end of their lifetime and would be in a poor state when returned to the government by under-performing private sector partners who had not met their obligations to ensure the operations and maintenance would guarantee the government received back projects in good working order. Additionally, there was concern that if the perception arose that PPPs had resulted in “privatization of profits and nationalization of debts” that the potential for future PPP projects would be jeopardized.
These projects that could stop delivering once handed back to the public sector because of a lack of financial and human capital resources would set the country’s development agenda back—as it could not afford to build new projects and refurbish old ones at the same time.
What was needed were projects that continued delivering.
Photo: AhmadArdity | Pixabay
There are many reasons why infrastructure projects often fail to materialize, meet their timeframe, budget, or service delivery objectives. Important examples include weak and insufficient planning and assessment of affordability as well as uncertainty over the rules of the game.
These issues severely constrain the ability of governments to mobilize finance to deliver key services that help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The World Bank estimates that achieving the SDGs would require some $4.5 trillion in public and private investment by 2030.
In light of the financing requirements for the SDGs, the World Bank has developed the Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) approach to help governments and other stakeholders crowd in private sector solutions while optimizing the use of scarce public resources.
The World Bank Group and the African Development Bank, with support from key development partners, have organized the second Infrastructure Governance Roundtable, to be held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, June 21-22, to foster a robust dialogue on how best to improve infrastructure governance practices to create sustainable infrastructure, and to assist with building capacity in this area.
Photo: Reychelle Ann Ignacio | Marketplace Designers
Sometimes change creeps up on us. And we can step back and realize that the world is different. This rings true currently in the infrastructure space. Here are three examples:
It’s now commonly agreed that we won’t achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without the involvement of private sector solutions: management, financing, and innovation. Involving the private sector is no longer an “if” question. We’re beyond ideology and calls for more aid transfers. Now we’re looking at “how”—and under what circumstances—crowding in private solutions help deliver better access to infrastructure services while being fiscally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
This is what the World Bank Group’s Maximizing Finance for Development initiative is about, for infrastructure and other sectors as well. Cameroon’s power sector is a good example, where sector reforms have been supported by public loans, which in turn have helped crowd in private and financing from development finance institutions (DFIs) for large investments like the 216 megawatt Kribi gas project.
The simple answer is yes—with a little help from the Infrastructure Prioritization Framework developed by the World Bank.
Experts can make decisions based on remarkably few pieces of information. Research by James Shanteau at Kansas State University has shown that expertise is reflected in the type of information used, not the amount of it. The Infrastructure Prioritization Framework, or IPF, attempts to capitalize on precisely these aspects of expertise and decision-making. This enables objective evaluations of infrastructure projects using minimal but relevant data in information-constrained environments.
Why is this important? But this does not mean the resulting decisions have to be poor. Critical to such situations is the ability to identify and select accurate and relevant information to achieve the desired objectives, something that requires experience, expertise, and judgment.
Photo: RoyBuri | Pixabay
In developed countries, we tend to take infrastructure services for granted. It’s easy to forget, when living in London, Washington, or Singapore, how much lies behind the simple act of switching on the lights. But as a young person growing up in India in the 1960s, I knew what it was like to live with rampant electricity shortages and terrible roads. It was easy to complain about it, and we did. It seemed, then, that the solution was simple: government should simply cough up the money, get to work, and build the infrastructure.
But there was a lot more we didn’t think about.
Photo: Trocaire | Flickr Creative Commons
In war-torn post-1991 Somalia, running water was a scarce commodity, to the misfortune of millions of people. Members of local communities rose to the occasion, “pooling” consortia of companies to fill the gap in water provisions. Eight public-private partnerships (PPPs) were formed through these consortia, benefiting 70,000 people in the Puntland and Somaliland regions of the country.
As demonstrated in the Somalia case, infrastructure needs are substantial in fragility, conflict and violence-affected (FCV) contexts—especially for recovery and reconstruction in war-torn areas. Yet often there is insufficient public sector funding to address such needs, compounded by lack of interest on the part of large private sector firms, who may not even be on the scene.
- maximizing finance for development
- Conflict and Fragility; fragile and conflict affected states; fragile states; fragility; FCV
- public-private partnerships
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Middle East and North Africa
- East Asia and Pacific
- Sustainable Communities
Photo: torstensimon | Pixabay
In the context of strained public finances and limited borrowing capacity for developing countries, there is growing debate on the roles of public and private actors to deliver the trillions of dollars of infrastructure necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On one hand, high-profile public-private partnership (PPP) project failures have cast doubt about the viability of the model. On the other hand, while public authorities are ultimately responsible for the delivery of public services, deficient infrastructure services in some countries have raised concerns about the ability of the public sector to deliver on its own.
This is not a black-and-white issue. Public and private finance are complementary, with different objectives and characteristics suitable in different contexts and sectors. The recently published 2018 report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development, to which almost 60 agencies and international institutions have contributed, explores this debate while analyzing financing challenges of SDGs 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 15 (life on land/ecosystems).
Solutions to problems
are easy to find:
the problem’s a great
So wrote the Danish poet, inventor, and mathematician Piet Hein. Development finance wasn’t on his mind when he wrote those words. Neither was private sector development. Yet the observation is unmistakably true for the field: To formulate solutions, we must first understand the nature of the problems we are trying to solve.
It helps crowd in private investment to create markets in difficult places. In an era of limited government resources and donor funds, this is key to achieving sustainable development.