Photo: Devin Poolman | Flickr Creative Commons
Nicaragua’s Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) program is taking off. In less than a year, the country has moved quickly, overcoming hurdles to produce a PPP law, supporting regulations, and a well-staffed PPP unit. Its first deals are getting closer to fruition—the World Bank Group (WBG) team working on PPPs in Central America has just received four pre-feasibility studies for its top projects. Two of these are moving fresh out of the pipeline—the Pacific coastal toll road and a cruise ship terminal and marina in San Juan del Sur.
Boosting the tourism sector through PPPs
The Pacific coastal toll road concept is progressing rapidly. If approved and financed the road could provide visitors with better access to the country’s Pacific Coast, which is already popular with tourists. In 2016, the country attracted more than 1.5 million people, bringing in $642 million in revenue—close to 5% of the country’s $13.23 billion GDP. This would represent a 66% increase, bringing with it an influx of $1 billion in revenue.
But the project has its challenges. First, the project can be delivered either as a small section of the road linking San Juan del Sur to Tola, on a 40 km straight line, or as a massive undertaking along the Pacific coast with more than 400 km of road. The cost for the larger project is estimated at $480 million. The project can be funded through a combination of income generated from the tolls and availability payments, which would come from the government’s national budget.
Nicaragua as the star at MIT
Nicaragua’s progress with PPPs was the focus of a recent lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management, where I presented on PPPs in Central America as the person managing the program on a daily basis. The fact that the government has taken so many steps in such a brief period helped draw some international attention to the case of Nicaragua as a genuine business opportunity for infrastructure development. This was a follow-up to the MIT’s 9th Annual Sustainability Summit, which successfully focused on Guatemala’s rail program. Now, Nicaragua is in the spotlight.
As the World Bank Group team is developing business cases for these projects in Nicaragua, neighboring countries in Central America are also advancing towards a final shortlist of projects in their pipelines. Some of these projects will be featured as business cases. This is the next step in The PPP Program in Central America is helping the World Bank Group achieve its development mission, one deal and one country at a time.
One PPP Program, Two World Bank Group Teams, and the MIT