Government’s development thrust revolves around Public-Private Partnerships. As a result, a number of ministers have over the months been articulating the importance of this concept. In light of this, I have decided to reprint this article which reflects my views on subject.
AIN ALL likelihood, Guyana will have a new government in less than two months, and with great anticipation, the cycle of debate on what should form the new government’s policies and programmes will begin. Let me venture to put one programme on the card; a topic I’ve previously commented on, namely, “Public - Private Partnership”.
As stated in my first article on this topic, my opinions in these pieces do not represent my official capacity as the Executive Director of the Health Sector Development Unit, nor indeed any of my other official capacities.
The definition, as given by the 2006 EU Briefing Note on public-private partnerships, which I adopted for the first article on this topic is restated here:
“A public-private partnership (PPP) is a contractual agreement between the public and the private sectors, whereby the private operator commits to provide public services that have traditionally been supplied or financed by public institutions. The ultimate goal of “P3s” (to avoid the unintended political reference inherent in the other accepted contraction) is to obtain more “value for money” than traditional public procurement options would deliver.”
“P3s” have been arguably touted – within the various models – as an effective means of facilitating delivery of public services without the inefficiencies often associated or inherent in public service mechanisms.
We do in fact have such arrangements in place in Guyana. To give as an example of a working P3, something that is a bit close to one aspect of my professional life, is the garbage collection in the City. The City Council has a mandate to remove waste from city properties, a service it has outsourced to several private companies. Notwithstanding the example given relative to the cost factor, P3 can also be done as part of a social responsibility of an agency (even on a short-term basis).
However, with a new government in the offing, I wish to generate some discussion on what possible new areas of P3 might be of some advantage to us, whether it’s to tap into new resources, reinvigorate old and lagging industries, introduce new technology, or capitalize on some unique benefit we may have.
Looking at the research I’ve done in the past, I’ve discovered that Asian countries in particular seem to have gone the furthest in the developing world in instituting workable P3 programmes, although – as one might expect – it is the developed world, the United Kingdom (UK) being the foremost example, which has developed public-private partnerships into a high science.
As mentioned earlier in the article, it is not that Guyana does not have operational P3s in place. What I am unaware of however – and I might be wrong in this regard – is the existence of an overarching policy framework in other jurisdictions to develop and govern such arrangements, such policy being a deliberate strategy to promote and increase the rate of development across sectors.
There has been some focus to put this in place at a regional level. At the opening of CARICOM’s 19th Council on Human and Social Development (COHSOD) meeting right here in Guyana in April 2010, Secretary-General Edwin Carrington directly linked the creation of a “P3” policy framework to sustainable development in the region.
“Policy coherence in human and social development,” he said, “no doubt makes it imperative for labour to be mainstreamed into the social and economic strategies of the region. Among other things, this... means establishing a vision of the parameters of growth and development that are directly linked to the human resource requirements as a main prerequisite of development. But these cannot be achieved without a concerted effort to harness sustainable public-private partnerships, strengthen institutional capabilities and create the enabling environment for human resource development.”
The perennial problem with regional initiatives such as this is that they often do not go beyond the specific donor-funded conference. While it is true that this typical failure to launch often has an associated element of lack of funding, developing economies often do not have the capital to invest in the sort of trial-and-error conceptual development process that results in working practical programmes. That said, innovation often costs less than people make out.
And in this case, the groundwork has largely been done already, with supporting information easily available -- as it should be -- in this the Internet Age. The Seoul Declaration on P3s in Asia was actually built upon extensive work undertaken by the United Nations and enshrined in several declarations and other policy documents, beginning with the Millennium Declaration of September 2000.
In short, the resources to at least begin the establishment of a P3 policy framework, as touted by CARICOM’s Secretary-General, are already well within the public domain, and accessible by UN members. There is no need, therefore, to reinvent the wheel in terms of the fundamentals of establishing P3s policy, particularly from a regional perspective.
But what of the benefits of P3 arrangements? How does the average P3 impact upon everyday life for the ordinary person? Granted the tendency globally has been primarily towards large infrastructural projects, there have been examples of P3 projects across the gamut of public services. I cited the Mayor and City Council’s (M&CC) garbage collection arrangement earlier, which falls under municipal services. But there is also the area of health services, for example. The Caribbean Heart Institute is an excellent example of how a public partnership in health can work, marrying sustainability with affordability in the delivery of a crucial healthcare service.
Further, cheap healthcare is an industry in itself, as the experience of countries like Israel, Brazil, and Canada could attest to, with their health services programme run largely by private capital operating within a comprehensive policy framework as set out by government.
It takes just a little imagination and resourcefulness therefore, in my view, to expand the range of health services that come under private-public partnerships locally, and who knows, eventually Guyana can count itself among the dozens of countries which offer health tourism services. To add, this line of reasoning can absolutely extend itself to other areas of our social and economic development. In what one can presume to be the absence of a document policy however, a crucial first step would be for the government and the private sector to proactively engage each other in developing a proper, codified public private partnership policy. The time is therefore opportune as we are about to install a new government.