We’re excited to launch this new dedicated blog platform around public-private partnerships (PPP). We envision it as a space for sharing experiences, disseminating knowledge and generating discussion. We hope that this space will be enriched by perspectives from PPP practitioners in governments, from investors, financiers, advisors, associations and so forth.
Why? There is a danger that public-private partnerships are being oversold.
A “disappointment gap” currently exists between high expectations and the sober reality of successfully concluded partnerships. Too much attention is often paid to financing, and not enough to the less glamorous hard work of preparation. There isn’t enough information being collected about performance. And there are different interpretations about what PPP means, exactly.
Right now, the PPP discussion is rhetoric-rich and data-poor. It is expectation-heavy, and cold-light-of-day reality is tougher. That’s a shame, because, when prepared carefully, with full assessment of the different options, and the fiscal/economic/environmental/social implications, PPPs can be a useful tool to help governments improve the quality and reach of their physical and social infrastructure services.
In addition, our new online course on PPPs will introduce real-world cases to an audience that doesn’t attend PPP conferences or read development banks’ annual reports.
There are plentiful examples that illustrate the realities, challenges and opportunities that PPPs offer. With your help, we intend to share and explore many of them on this blog. We invite you to read, share and engage with us on these topics and follow us on Twitter at @WBG_PPP.
The Buzz on the Street: Can institutional investors really close the infrastructure gap?
Once again, infrastructure is a hot topic. Not since the first waves of energy, water and transport privatizations in the early 1990s has infrastructure been a central topic in the daily discourse of the media, of the development community, of economists and financiers. Now, governments are crying for more of it, new development institutions are being built around it and even the IMF is asserting its central role in economic growth.
Not only has infrastructure re-emerged as a popular, nearly consensus solution to the economic and societal woes of developing countries and industrialized nations alike, but the font of the resources needed to fill the infrastructure financing gap has also been identified. Suddenly, it is impossible to walk through London, Washington, Paris or Singapore without bumping into a conference on institutional investors in infrastructure. The G20 has discovered the link along with their business counterparts at the B20. So too has the World Economic Forum, the OECD, the UN and the international financial institutions. Match the long-term liabilities of pensions and insurance plans with long-term assets, the mantra goes, and the infamous infrastructure gap will close. Win-win.
In many countries, central governments have devolved the responsibility of infrastructure service provision to the sub-national level, which is essential for economic growth. Along with this devolution of provision responsibility comes the requirement to raise revenues, enhance efficiencies, improve commercial viability, and reduce a dependence on external financial support — including central government guarantees.
However, central governments are increasingly unwilling or unable (due to limitations of fiscal space) to guarantee sub-national borrowings. This new paradigm is testing the sub-nationals’ ability to raise financing to fulfill newfound responsibilities in infrastructure service provision.
Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. Historically, easy access to sovereign guarantees has created perverse incentives for not pursuing more sustainable financing solutions. This dependence has also tainted the way that sub-nationals are perceived by the markets, by making them seem like reactive agents of development. This in turn has limited their access to finance and therefore their ability to develop. This approach must evolve, because whether the focus is climate change, massive migratory movements, or basic infrastructure needs, the struggle to advance the global fight against poverty and unsustainable development may be won or lost primarily at the local level in developing countries.
Experience shows that well-designed PPPs can be an important development tool, and can enhance delivery of basic infrastructure services to those who need it most. By allocating risks between public and private parties, introducing new technology and improving operational efficiencies, PPPs can help governments maximize the effectiveness of scarce public funding.
We also know that some PPPs haven’t met expectations. And we know that PPPs are not a panacea for solving all gaps in services. They need to be used selectively. So we’re trying to identify and share lessons from successful PPPs around the world, so that governments, civil society, consumers, investors and the environment can all benefit.
We’re sure that there are many good stories out there that not enough people know about. We’re hoping to hear from students, practitioners, policymakers and anyone interested in PPPs. From these submissions, we hope to identify practical solutions that can be applied by governments.
Here’s the competition website to submit your case studies, essays, and video submissions on innovative solutions for PPPs. Please forward this to your networks. We welcome submissions in English, French and Spanish. Submissions will be judged by an independent panel using several criteria, including the identification of actionable ideas, replication potential, and relevance to the World Bank Group’s twin goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity (measured as the income of the bottom 40 percent in any given country).
The winner(s) will be invited to offer a presentation at a major PPP event in London in mid-June, and there is a cash prize as well.
The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2015. I invite you to follow us on twitter @WBG_PPP to keep up with our work and PPP-relevant news.
The competition is sponsored by the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF).
In part, this reflects a broader trend – overall, PPI in all infrastructure sectors fell by 24 percent. The biggest drop was in South Asia, which saw PPI in transport fall from just over $20 billion in 2012 to approximately $3 billion in 2013, mostly because of significant decreases in India. Two other regions – Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) – also saw decreases. PPI in transport increased in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) and Africa, but not by enough to offset decreases elsewhere.
2013 Transport PPIs by region
This is not good news for the world’s poor. Transportation is a critical component of development and growth, enabling people to access schools, hospitals and markets. It facilitates labor mobility and ensures that raw materials and finished goods get to customers. In rural areas, transportation systems provide an economic and social connection with the rest of the country. Within cities, good urban transportation is often the only form of transportation available to the poor. It also improves the flow of goods and services, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and improves the overall quality of life.
You don’t need to be a grandparent or even have a particularly long memory to recall a time when information and communications technology (ICT) devices were luxuries only a few could afford, if not something lifted entirely from the pages of science fiction. Reform of the ICT sector happened fast, both in broadband and mobile, and we all feel it in our personal and professional lives. The extraordinarily rapid uptake of mobile telephony in developing countries is the most compelling element of the
ICT story, but it’s only partly about the technology itself.
The real plot twist lies in why reform took off so quickly. Simply put, the incumbents did not see mobile services as threatening. Telecom companies thought of it as a fancy, add-on service that would be useful for rich people but unthreatening to the standard business model. However, the new technology was able to fill gaps in countries where there was no service at all, and it was able to make very rapid inroads. Elsewhere, people would have gone through a more traditional rollout of fixed network and then mobile; in developing countries, mobile became the main service because incumbent service was so poor. Mobile moved in because the incumbents had not done their job.
This shows that the most important element of progress in ICT is the creation of an environment where competition can flourish. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key players in this chapter of the ICT narrative. We see this in articles and interviews throughout Handshake, which examines PPPs in broadband and mobile/telecom (which together comprise our definition of ICT) and the services this infrastructure makes possible. In other words, we’re looking at PPPs whose infrastructure creates connections and whose services deliver connectivity.
The World Bank Group is searching internally and globally for 18 experienced and driven professionals to help achieve two ambitious goals: reducing the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day to 3% by 2030 and promoting shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40%. These leaders will be crucial to our plan to improve the way we work, so we can deploy the best skills and expertise to our clients everywhere, to help tackle the most difficult development challenges around the world.
Instrumental to the success of our strategy is the establishment of Global Practices and Cross-Cutting Solution Areas, which will bring all technical staff together, making it possible for us to expand our knowledge and better connect global and local expertise for transformational impact. Our ultimate goal is to deploy the best skills and expertise to our clients at the right time, and become the leading partner for complex development solutions.
According to the numbers, the prospects for post-conflict countries are dim. Half of the world’s poor live in conflict-affected countries, a percentage expected to climb over 80 by 2025. They can also look forward to lower economic growth rates—a reduction of up to three percent for every year of conflict. And sustained peace is hardly a sure thing—a United Nations-World Bank report famously says that post-conflict countries have a 50 percent chance slipping back into war within 10 years. With stats like these, it’s tempting to write off the future of any country that’s had a shooting war in recent years.
When the words “private sector” and “education” come together, they conjure up the widening chasm between the rich and poor: elite education in private schools. An article in The New York Times, for example, describes a growing education gap as contributing to a “kind of cultural divide” in the United States. A smart kid growing up without access to good education, the argument goes, will be limited for life, regardless of how bright or motivated he or she is.
As a boy growing up in Africa, I always assumed that every country had its own airline. To me, a national airline was just another way a country defined itself, along with its flag, national anthem, and currency. Ghana Airways, which my family often flew (we lived in Kumasi), was a perfect example, with the red, gold and green colors of its national flag painted on every plane. They looked proud and elegant, a perfect symbol of statehood.