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One question, eight experts, part seven: Robert Puentes

Robert Puentes's picture

To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?

Our seventh response in this eight-part series comes from Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program

Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway.
Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the U.S., one of the best learning tools for places wishing to engage in PPPs for infrastructure has been past mistakes. From the parking meter deal in Chicago, to Virginia’s Pocahontas Parkway, and a handful of others, American cities and states pay close attention to one another and are loathe to repeat previous problems.

But going forward, institutionalizing such learnings requires a dedicated team. Indeed, assembling a group with the right mix of finance, legal, policy, and communications experience is critical to the success of any PPP project. Public sector agencies looking to procure a limited number of PPP projects or engaging in their first, often use outside advisors for most of these services. This can be a successful strategy as long as public sector decision makers remain in control of the process.

Lorne Turner: Remembering a city worker who made a difference

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Lorne Turner served as Manager of Performance Management for the City of Toronto.
People wandering through the labyrinth of booths of yet another UN urban conference in Nanjing (2008) or Rio de Janeiro (2010) may have stumbled across a friendly, unassuming man, looking somewhat out of place at the Global Cities Institute – Cities Alliance stand. These types of conferences were not the typical work venue for Lorne Turner, Toronto’s manager of city performance.
Lorne was a city practitioner, tasked with the professional, meaningful and honest monitoring of the progress of Toronto, alone and alongside other world cities. He firmly believed that all cities – in Ontario, Canada and around the world - succeed when working together, and that measuring this progress is absolutely critical. Lorne was a ‘details-guy’ who knew how the small brushstrokes blended together to paint a community, a country, and later in his life, he helped demonstrate how they could define urban life around the planet.
Lorne passed away last week, after a long battle with cancer. Lorne was in his role for almost 30 years (including Budget Director, North York, 1988-97).
Lorne’s passing is particularly poignant for city workers. Lorne was quiet and modest; he fit his professional accountant stereotype well. He was also highly effective. Last year, the global city indicator standard was published (ISO 37120). This standard is important for all cities and is anchored to Lorne’s perseverance, commitment and his ability to keep the City of Toronto actively engaged for the more than ten years it took to develop the idea. The idea and the standard owes much of its existence to Lorne.

4 key challenges for reforming state-owned enterprises: Lessons from Latin America

Fanny Weiner's picture
Man fixing railroad tracks. Mexico. Photo - Curt Carnemark / World Bank

Efficiency. Competitiveness. Innovation. Integrity.

Do these words come to mind when you think of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)?

From June 2-3, 2015 in Santiago, Chile, over 100 representatives of governments, SOEs, and academia from 13 countries came together to discuss how to advance these ideals, at the fourth Annual Meeting of the Latin American Network on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises, co-organized by the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Latin American Development Bank (CAF). 

SOEs are commercial enterprises owned by governments, in full or in part. Across Latin America, SOEs still represent a significant portion of GDPs, national expenditures, employment, and government revenues. Many SOEs provide essential public goods and services like water, electricity, and transportation.

Toward more accountable public finance: budget transparency, participation, and oversight

Anjali Garg's picture
Photo by GotCredit -

These are exciting times for those of us who believe in the potential of greater budget accountability to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. The upcoming release of the Open Budget Survey promises to shed some light on three pillars of accountable budgets: transparency, participation, and oversight.
The importance of budget transparency is now well established. Recent years, however, have seen growing recognition that, along with access to information, it is critical that the public is provided with formal opportunities to engage in how budgets are managed.

​Public participation is becoming an increasingly well-established pillar for ensuring accountability.

To meet the jobs challenge, maximize the impact of SMEs

Klaus Tilmes's picture

The urgent challenge of generating jobs and incomes – as the world’s working-age population is poised to soar – will require making the most of all the job-creating energies of the private sector and the strategy-setting skill of the public sector. Today in Ankara, Turkey, the World Bank Group renewed its commitment to strengthen the global economy’s most promising and inclusive source of job creation: small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

At a signing ceremony at the B20 conference of global business leaders – coinciding with the G20 forum of government leaders from the world’s largest economies – the Bank Group joined in a partnership with a new organization promoted by the B20: the World SME Forum (WSF), which is to become the global platform to coordinate practical assistance and policy support for SMEs.

Based in İstanbul, WSF has been founded through a partnership between the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and ICC’s World Chambers Federation.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim – in Ankara, Turkey, on September 4, 2015 – signs a Memorandum of Understanding to confirm the Bank Group's partnership with the World SME Forum. Also signing the document, along with President Kim, is Rifat Hisarciklioglu, the Chairman of B20 Turkey and the President of TOBB (the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey).

SMEs are a vital engine of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the success of the SME sector is central to every country’s prospects for job creation and economic growth. Providing support for SMEs is a fundamental priority for the World Bank Group, as we pursue our global goals of eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

SMEs are crucial to every economy: They provide as much as two-thirds of all employment, according to a recent survey of 104 countries – and, in the 85 countries that showed positive net job creation, the smallest-size enterprises accounted for more than half of total net new jobs.

One question, eight experts, part six: William Dachs

William Dachs's picture

To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?

Our sixth response in this eight-part series comes from William Dachs, Chief Operating Officer of the Gautrain Management Agency in South Africa. 

South Africa's Gautrain.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The ability of a national PPP program to apply lessons learned from one project to the next is dependent on factors such as the documentation of case studies and the use of a central repository of information in a PPP unit at the national level, where such lessons can be distilled and applied to the next project in that jurisdiction.

There are plenty of good examples of such programs that learn from and apply lessons. But how are individual PPP projects able to absorb mistakes and still meet the original objectives of value for money for the users of the services and the taxpayers who may ultimately bear the risk of the project failing?

It is impossible to predict the range of possible risks and to allocate these with precision over 20 to 25 years in a complex and changing environment. As such, the key to achieving long-term value from a PPP does not only lie in the quality of the feasibility and procurement phases, but also in how the balance of risk and rewards is established and applied in the PPP contract so as to be able to survive significant changes over a long period of time.

Lessons from the taxi industry to improve Romania’s governance

Ismail Radwan's picture
taxi in Romania
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank

The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
About a year later I returned to Bucharest to find a new system in place.  An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport.  Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
What made the difference? 
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.  
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient. 
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology. 

 What are the implications for governance reform? 

The future of government is open

Stephen Davenport's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

The World Bank Group sees the pillars of a more open and citizen centric government--transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration--as strategic priorities in its work on governance because they suggest concrete ways to promote shared prosperity. Having made significant strides to increasing openness in the Bank's own work, we seek to build on this progress to support client governments in their own efforts to make the development process more inclusive. 

What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez's picture
Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Photo - Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank
Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Photo - Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank

Over the last 25 years, the relevance of local governments (states, provinces, municipalities, etc.) in Latin America has been constantly increasing.

The process started with a wave of decentralization, particularly in the education and health sectors, followed by the increasing of other responsibilities of local governments (with the accompanying budget!), and most recently topped off by the allocation of additional investment resources fueled by the commodities boom of the mid-2000s. Currently, in some countries, half of the national budget is now allocated to lower levels of governments.

The World Bank has a long history supporting countries in the region as they transition political, administrative, and fiscal responsibilities to subnational levels, as part of national strategies for strengthening democracy, transparency, and efficient service delivery.