Photo: David Lawrence / World Bank Group
One September afternoon, my boss, Pankaj Gupta, popped his head into my office. He had some ideas about how the novel use of guarantees might help solve a type of problem we had not faced before. The Energy and Extractives Global Practice had received a request from Ukraine. The problem was the country was heading into the 2014/15 winter with a large gas shortfall.
These were not easy times for Ukraine, which was in the throes of armed conflict on its Eastern border. With an economy in turmoil, the credit rating agency, Standard & Poor's, had dropped Ukraine's credit rating two notches in the last year. The rating now languished at CCC, or very speculative and non-investment grade. This made finance, the life-blood of service delivery, difficult to access and expensive.
Welcome to the “10 Candid Career Questions” series, introducing you to the infrastructure and PPP professionals who do the deals, analyze the data, and strategize on the next big thing. Each of them followed a different path into infra and/or PPP practice, and this series offers an inside look at their backgrounds, motivations, and choices. Each blogger receives the same 15 questions and answers 10 or more that tell their career story candidly and without jargon. We believe you’ll be as surprised and inspired as we were. For examples of other entries on the IPG blog, click here.
It’s not always easy to convince the private sector to participate in public infrastructure projects—especially in developing countries and emerging economies. Why is this a problem? Because there simply is not enough public money to meet the growing demand for infrastructure, which is a key element of development and poverty alleviation. The need is great, numbering in the trillions of dollars.
But there is good news—the market has both the trillions and the expertise to use it, if the conditions are right. And the World Bank Group has a number of instruments that can help create an environment that meets the needs of the private sector in financially, environmentally, and socially sustainable ways. Guarantees are one of those instruments, a tool that is highly effective in leveraging limited resources for mobilizing commercial financing for critical infrastructure projects.
Photo: Roberto Maldeno | Flickr Creative Commons
Infrastructure in Ukraine, Europe’s largest country, is extremely underdeveloped. Without significant investment, it cannot support the existing or future needs of our economy or population. The reasons are many: decades of mismanagement under Soviet rule, economic crisis, and more recently, the conflict in the Donbass. Given that these constraints go beyond a simple lack of funding, our government is partnering with the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF), as well as other international partners such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank.
But that doesn’t mean lessons cannot be transferred. Even if conditions vary, the underlying principles of PPPs remain the same regardless of where it is executed. For example, a PPP is always a long-term contractual agreement between a government entity and a private company; it must be financially sound if it is to work; and risks must be identified, mitigated and allocated effectively. The details of how these principles are applied will vary depending on the regulatory and market conditions of each country. But the examples remain valid nonetheless.
In Ukraine, PPPs have been slow to catch on, initially because the business climate was so weak. The country’s neighbors were all more successful at implementing PPPs: Poland has 65 PPP projects underway according to the Ministry of Economy’s PPP database, and Moldova’s first PPP established a radiology and diagnostic imaging center. But none of Ukraine’s neighbors have done as well with PPPs as its Black Sea neighbor, Turkey.
Turkey is a regional PPP powerhouse. The 2014 PPI Global Update, which provides information on private infrastructure investment in emerging markets, puts Turkey in second place globally for the second year in a row with US$12.5 billion. In 2014 alone, 17 new projects were launched in mainly in power and transport. Not surprisingly, Ukrainian officials have been looking with great interest to Turkey’s success.
But PPPs don't have to be big to be successful. In Malyn, a town of nearly 30,000 in Ukraine, a biofuel PPP helped the city administration heat three schools last winter by refitting a municipal boiler house, allowing it to substitute expensive, unreliable imported natural gas with locally-produced biofuel made from locally-produced pellets made from wood or straw.