While the World Bank’s resources for low-income countries have never been greater, they still pale in comparison with these countries’ needs. Governments always need to make hard choices between infrastructure needs, social programs, and fiscal discipline. One country was recently able to strike the right balance with the support of World Bank guarantees: Benin.
In 2018, I participated in public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives across the globe: in Albania, Switzerland, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, and the United States. I also engaged with PPP thought leaders from the public and private sectors about trends they saw evolving that would impact the practice of PPPs in the next year or two.
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: