A strange irony persists in today’s infrastructure investment market: private capital waiting to be deployed into the sector is at an all-time high, yet investors seem reluctant to commit. Even in developed countries, few investors are willing to partake in transactions with merchant or construction risks without taking a higher risk premium.
This can make the financing of infrastructure projects more costly—a challenge particularly acute in emerging markets where further investment risks abound.
Before diving into a new year, I like to take some time for reflection. This past year, I’ve seen a real shift in how public-private partnerships (PPPs) are perceived and understood—both their benefits and risks. Many governments are considering PPPs to help them deliver infrastructure and services their citizens need. They also better understand the complexity of PPPs as a procurement method and are more strategic in when to use them.
If so, what must be done to ensure they’re sustainable and deliver on public sector goals? Thinking back on 2018, I saw these developments:
The passage of a public-private partnership (PPP) law is often hailed as a big step, one that allows private sector participation in infrastructure and public services. But that is no guarantee that a successful PPP will be enacted, even when the need is great.
We experienced this firsthand in the Kyrgyz Republic, where it took six years from the passage of the law to the day the country opened its first-ever PPP—a state-of-the-art dialysis clinic. We are extremely proud to have contributed to that effort—one that meets an urgent healthcare need while also demonstrating that well-designed PPPs, with the commitment and support of government, can deliver for both citizens and national development goals.
Using Islamic finance for infrastructure development attracted more attention recently in the quest to maximize finance for development.
At the recent World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings in Bali, the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) co-hosted a symposium on Islamic infrastructure finance, building on the institutions’ strategic partnership. As we note in Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships, the asset-backed, ring-fenced, and project-specific nature of Islamic finance structures and their emphasis on sharing risks make them a natural fit for infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs).
The developing world faces a twin challenge—closing the infrastructure financing gap and changing the composition of infrastructure financing. Given rising global macroeconomic and trade concerns, changing the composition of financing is as important as maximizing infrastructure capital. Changing the composition of capital flow also has the potential to increase the efficiency and sustainability of public finance and infrastructure projects.
The Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database, with 28 years of data, is a powerful metric for private investment mobilization in infrastructure in emerging markets. Every half-year we report how PPI has fared across these markets and compare it to past periods.
It takes a lot to do a first Public-Private Partnership (PPP) well. In the past 12 months, we witnessed the successful financial close of two landmark PPPs: the Tibar Bay Port PPP—a first for Timor-Leste, one of the youngest countries in the world—and the Kigali Bulk Water project in Rwanda, considered the first water build-operate-transfer project in Sub-Saharan Africa.
To make these projects happen, deal teams, sponsors, and financiers did outstanding work in difficult environments. The Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) also earned some bragging rights and a share of the battle scars along with these actors.
With support from the World Bank Group, Singapore invested heavily in infrastructure during the early stages of our growth. This included 14 World Bank loans between 1963 and 1975, which financed the development of the deep sea terminal at the Port of Singapore, the doubling of the country’s energy capacity, and the construction of water pipelines to Malaysia—all of which remain a part of our core infrastructure today.
There is hardly a government today that does not consider some sort of public-private partnership (PPP) to be relevant and integral to its development strategy.
Everywhere you go now, there are individuals and institutions dealing with PPP policy and all the complex aspects of tendering, implementing, and supervising PPP projects. A specialization has arisen, which has become a career for many people and an industry for many institutions, public and private.
Tomas Castelazo | Wikimedia Commons
The Colombian magazine Dinero, one of the most respected economic publications in Latin America, recently published a story about a World Bank study that placed Colombia as the second most competitive country in the world—behind a tie between Great Britain and Australia—to finance infrastructure projects under the public-private partnership model (known as PPPs). This score (83 points out of 100) was also shared by Paraguay and the Philippines.
At first glance, this is a virtuous recognition—at least on paper. However, in daily practice in the Latin American region, like most emerging economies, the administrative complexity of government bodies still presents enormous challenges that demand immediate attention if PPPs are to reach their full potential. Getting this right would truly integrate the PPP model into the economic and social development engine required to compete in a globalized economy.
Like winter and summer solstices of investment cycles, every six months we take stock of how much private participation in infrastructure has come to financial close across emerging markets. From Mozambique to Moldova, Chile to China—in power, water, transport, and the backbone of telecom services—the World Bank Group tracks every new public-private partnership (PPP), privatization, auction, concession, lease, and management contract through our PPI Database.