The largest Public-Private Partnership deal in Central America was recently highlighted at one of the world’s most prestigious universities during the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) 9th Annual Sustainability Summit. Under this year’s theme, Funding the Future, the event brought together more than 300 participants from students, startup CEOs, academia, think tanks and financial investors.
Private Sector Development
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) require the coordination of an impressive number of stakeholders to mobilize the commercial financing needed to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth in challenging environments. A great deal of analysis, negotiation, and hard work goes into every project. And each one presents an opportunity to encourage investors to venture into countries and compete for projects they wouldn’t have considered before and, ultimately, to create new markets.
While the commercial and legal challenges involved in structuring PPPs are well known, the efforts that go into conducting rigorous technical due diligence are less well known. For example, projects that aim to provide utility scale solar PV on short order, like the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program, require a team of experienced engineers from IFC’s Energy and Water Advisory working hand in hand with our PPP transaction advisors, legal experts, and environmental and social specialists to make them a reality.
Islamic finance assets represent only around 1% of the global financial market, so how can tapping into these funds help close the $452 billion annual infrastructure finance gap in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies? The percentage may be small now, but the Islamic finance market is growing at an impressive pace—and not just in Muslim-majority countries.
There is a famous saying that a successful person can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.
In real life however, the art of building a firm foundation is not always that simple. Waiting for others to simply throw bricks at you is not enough when the grand task is transforming infrastructure into an asset class. There is a need for a skillful bricklayer—and this is the role we see for the multilateral development banks (MDBs).
To meet this challenge, our two institutions – the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) – co-hosted a session moderated by AIIB’s Vice President Joachim von Amsberg at the recently-held 2017 Global Infrastructure Forum. The objective was precisely to discuss how to construct and promote infrastructure as a tradable asset class.
Photo Credit: Tim Wang via Flickr Creative Commons
According to the World Bank Group’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database, an estimated 10-30% of global infrastructure projects with private-sector participation in low- and middle-income countries are unsolicited, meaning the proposal was submitted by a private sector entity without an explicit request from a government to do so. The considerable use of this alternative procurement method, where the private sector rather than the government takes the leading role in initiating and developing a project, raises important concerns for public infrastructure practitioners at both technical and political levels due to the nature of unsolicited proposals (USPs). USPs offer potential opportunities for governments, but experience shows they can introduce several challenges, such as diverting public resources away from the strategic plans of the government, failing to attract competition, and ultimately leading to opportunities for corruption.
Just two years ago, Ghana was experiencing unstable commodity prices and a deteriorating macroeconomic situation. Yet, through a unique combination of World Bank guarantees nearly $8 billion in private investment was mobilized for the Sankofa Gas Project—the biggest foreign direct investment in Ghana’s history. The transformational project helped address serious energy shortages and put the country on a path to economic growth.
This is just one example illustrating how risk mitigation products play out in practice to encourage private sector investment and improve people’s lives.
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Investing in infrastructure relies on well-designed, solid projects that both governments and private sector investors can confidently support. But globally, the pipeline of such projects is weak. No surprise, then, that actual infrastructure investments fall far short of demand—the resulting infrastructure gap is estimated to be $1 trillion annually. In the poorest developing countries, the situation is worse: since 2012, they have seen overall private investment in infrastructure fall leaving billions without basic services such as electricity, clean water, or sanitation.
Photo Credit: Flickr user n8agrin
Seven years ago I began working in the infrastructure field, and it has been truly remarkable to witness so much knowledge and so many incredible bright minds dedicated to the cause of providing sustainable and inclusive infrastructures globally, really!
During this time, I have realized how crucial project preparation is even though in the scheme of things it seems like a minute phase of a very long infrastructure life cycle. In fact, I compare the project preparation phase to the “cornerstone concept,” defined as the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
In other words, if a project is well-prepared, well designed, well-thought of, it is more likely to flow better across the infrastructure life cycle and provide the desired services to the population, and vice versa.
Public-private partnership (PPP) practitioners are sometimes guilty of thinking that signing the deal is the end of the story. You can’t blame them, really. Making a PPP work is a long-term process with a lot of players involved, each with his or her own priorities. Detailed technical, economic, and environmental and social reviews must be conducted to make sure the project is feasible and bankable. Often, sector reforms are required. Stakeholders – including the public – must be kept fully informed. The competitive bid, critical to any PPP, must be fully transparent so nobody will doubt the legitimacy of the outcome. It’s a long, hard slog to the end, and I can’t blame PPP practitioners from wearily planting the flag, declaring victory, and moving on.
But the signing is not the end; it is the beginning. And you can’t really declare success until the PPP is delivering real results for people. Sometimes, a follow-up PPP adds a new phase to a project, and sometimes new players are brought in. In any case, it’s worth going back and examining the results of PPP projects to see what happened and extract valuable lessons.
Photo Credit: Axel Drainville via Flickr Creative Commons
Our research at the Stanford Global Projects Center aims to improve the way institutional capital is invested in critical public infrastructure. On one side, we research how institutional investor capital that has a commercial objective can be pooled most efficiently for infrastructure. On the other side we research government policies and practices to procure infrastructure assets through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and other methods most effectively. In this blog we highlight a few specific initiatives that have been set up to achieve these two objectives holistically, a few of which we touched upon in our first blog.