Private sector participation provides a promising solution to sustainable management and financing of water services, but we must bear in mind that a true PPP is all about the last P, partnership. At the Training Day preceding the PPP conference here in Dakar, Jane Jamieson said that PPP is not a date, it’s a marriage – you have to wake up next to it for the next 15-20 years (or 5 years or less for those management or lease/affermage contracts in countries such as Benin, Uganda, and Mozambique). So how do we make sure that it is indeed a true partnership?
At the conference’s opening ceremony the Prime Minister of Senegal, Abdoul Mbaye, made an impressive speech about the state of PPPs in his country. He said that PPP is a response to resource mobilization needs without increasing the indebtedness of his country; that it is a sharing of investments; not a panacea, but a powerful tool that guarantees better services.
Guaranteeing better services, however, requires a lot of work from the public sector, not just the private sector, which is already taking on risks.
A recent World Bank study on public spending in Sub Saharan Africa shows public expenditure averaged 0.39% of GDP or US$ 1.71 per person – which is estimated to be one-tenth of what is needed to meet the MDGs for water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa. An average of 2% of total government expenditures go towards the water and sanitation sector. As it stands, private sector investment in water supply and sanitation infrastructure has been fairly low, particularly in Sub Saharan Africa, so governments have to step up and put more money into the WSS sector if they are to attract more private sector. Why did Vergnet enter the Burkina Faso small piped scheme market with under 5 lcd consumption? The initial investments were paid for by the government through AfD funding!
At the conference, there was consensus among the Ministers of Water during the afternoon Ministerial Panel that water and sanitation is a priority. But as a delegate from South Sudan asked in the plenary: You say water sector development is a priority but then the budgets are always low. So what is this? Is this something you promise during elections?
But alas, the Ministers of Water answered that despite their passion and sincerity– a significant portion of the solution also lies in the Ministries of Finance.
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