Almost 600 million Indians living in rural areas defecate in the open. To meet the ambitious targets of the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM (G)) – the rural clean India mission – plans to eliminate open defecation by 2019. SBM (G) is time-bound with a stronger results orientation, targeting the monitoring of both outputs (access to sanitation) and outcomes (usage). There is also a stronger focus on behavior change interventions and states have been accorded greater flexibility to adopt their own delivery mechanisms.
To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?
It is a truism that infrastructure projects, like much else in life, do not unfold exactly as planned. However, there is little room for failure because it would affect a large number of users for which the government would be accountable.
India happens to be the largest laboratory of PPP projects and offers a plethora of evidence. While most projects have succeeded, some have faced failure mainly because they were encumbered by lack of conceptual clarity in policy formulation as well as contractual framework.
Many assert that all future events cannot be predicted and a PPP contract must, therefore, be regarded as incomplete. They need to be reminded that if man could succeed in sending a satellite to space and operate it for several years without any ability to modify it, why can’t this be done while launching an infrastructure project?
When India first started using technology for national development, it used technology to build a huge software industry which helped the economy grow in the 1990s. In the decades that followed, with a much improved economy, civic minded Indians set their sights on a much loftier goal – tackling corruption.
In July 2008 The Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder". The criminalization of politics causes a huge drain of public resources and the resulting loss of credibility for politicians dissuades civic minded citizens from stepping forward. Unfortunately the average voter often has little to no idea of the criminal background of some of these Parliament members and hence public opinion cannot be used to throw them out of power. The media, too, does not have capacity to focus on all the corruption cases and usually focuses on the most egregious violations.