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(De)Politicization Dynamics in Public–Private Partnerships (PPPs): Lessons from a comparison between UK and Flemish PPP policy


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This article analyses the (de)politicization dynamics in complex and technical matters like public–private partnerships, which is necessary given its social impact and bud- getary consequences for the years and gen- erations to come. The global financial crisis provides an excellent window of opportunity to present this argument, because PPP pol- icy needs to reinvent itself. We argue that PPP policy needs to be (re)politicized at the broader societal and discursive levels, which means that their public nature is recognized and that policy alternatives are debated in the public forums. The ‘Private Finance Initiative’ reassessment process in the UK may serve as an example.
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(De)Politicization Dynamics
in Public–Private Partnerships
(PPPs): Lessons from a
comparison between UK and
Flemish PPP policy
Tom Willemsa & Wouter Van Doorena
a Department of Politics, Research Group ‘Public
Administration & Management’, University of Antwerp,
Antwerp, Belgium
Published online: 15 Oct 2014.
To cite this article: Tom Willems & Wouter Van Dooren (2014): (De)Politicization
Dynamics in Public–Private Partnerships (PPPs): Lessons from a comparison
between UK and Flemish PPP policy, Public Management Review, DOI:
To link to this article:
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Lessons from a comparison
between UK and Flemish PPP
Tom Willems and Wouter Van Dooren
Tom Willems
Department of Politics, Research Group Public
Administration & Management
University of Antwerp
Wouter Van Dooren
Department of Politics, Research Group Public
Administration & Management
University of Antwerp
This article analyses the (de)politicization
dynamics in complex and technical matters
like publicprivate partnerships, which is
necessary given its social impact and bud-
getary consequences for the years and gen-
erations to come. The global financial crisis
provides an excellent window of opportunity
to present this argument, because PPP pol-
icy needs to reinvent itself. We argue that
PPP policy needs to be (re)politicized at the
broader societal and discursive levels, which
means that their public nature is recognized
and that policy alternatives are debated in the
public forums. The Private Finance Initiative
reassessment process in the UK may serve
as an example.
Publicprivate partnerships, democratic
governance, Private Finance Initiative (PFI),
depoliticization, technocracy
Public Management Review, 2014
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
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A major challenge to democratic governance in the twenty-first century is the growing
influence of technocratic experts in public policy. It is part of the wider theme of
depoliticization, which basically means shifting functions and responsibilities away from
elected political actors to specialized technicalactors (shielded from much public
scrutiny and control). Although the shift towards depoliticized modes of governance is
no new phenomenon, there are some contemporary challenges. The global financial
crisis of 20072008 seems to have led to renewed interest in the topic (Flinders and
Wood 2014).
The world of long-term infrastructure projects financed with private capital and
operated through private consortia also known as publicprivate partnerships (PPPs)
is such a recent manifestation of depoliticization. Essential public infrastructure
(roads, schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.) with a high budgetary and social impact is
placed in the hands of consortia of private contractors. Democratic politics is supposed
to be unsuitedto deal with these kinds of projects because it is said to be too short-
sighted, unstable and politically selfish (Roberts 2010, 117134). Long-term contracts
with specialized private actors were designed to avoid the pitfalls of electoral politics
and offer better value for money. Many evaluations of PPPs, however, have shown
how unreliable these assumptions have been (Ball, Heafey, and King 2003; Siemiatycki
and Farooqi 2012; Wall and Connolly 2009). The impact of the global financial crisis
further affected the value for moneythat PPP contracting could and can deliver
(Hodge and Greve 2013). Depoliticized PPPs seemed vulnerable to the same flaws as
conventional democratic politics.
This article suggests developing the concept of depoliticization both conceptually and
empirically by looking at PPPs. Wood and Flinders (2014) propose to study the
consequences of depoliticization using a cross-disciplinary approach that goes beyond
the narrow governmental analyses of this phenomenon. Hay (2014) also emphasizes the
need for more empirical studies to advance our understanding of depoliticization. That
is what this article tries to offer. It is crucial to recognize the political nature of long-
term infrastructure projects that are privately financed and operated. The article
analyses the (de)politicization dynamics in complex and technical policy matters like
PPPs, which is deemed necessary given its social impact and budgetary consequences
for the years and generations to come. The global financial crisis and its aftermath
provide an excellent window of opportunity to present this argument, because PPP
policy needs to be reinvented (just as the role of the government in the broader
economy needs to be redefined) (Hodge and Greve 2013).
This article wants to address the following question: what can we learn from the
empirical case of PPPs about the dynamic interplay between (de)politicization tenden-
cies? Based on a comparison between PPP policy in the UK and Flanders (northern
region of Belgium), this article describes what the impact may be of various levels of
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(de)politicization. We argue that PPP policy needs to be (re)politicized at the broader
societal and discursive levels (Wood and Flinders 2014), which means that their public
nature is recognized and that policy alternatives are debated in the public and political
forums. Finally, we claim that the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) reassessment process
in the UK may serve as an example of (re)politicization (although it may have failed to
live up to the expectations in terms of real policy changes).
The concept of depoliticization describes both the displacement of decision-making
away from elected politicians and the exercise of power by non-state actors. Flinders
and Wood (2014, 135) call it the denial of political contingency and the transfer of
functions away from elected politicians. Although it is a key concept in political
science, sociology and public administration (Bauman 2002; Bourdieu 2003), it is
studied in many diverse ways. Some studies focus on issues like professionalism of
bureaucracy (Peters and Pierre 2004), others on the pluralism and pillarizationof
society (Lijphart 1975), or on regulatory governance and the role of non-majoritarian
institutions (Moran 2011), and the European Union (EU) as a special case of techno-
cratic governance (Radaelli 1999). This withdrawal of electoral politics from public
decision-making is often associated with technocracy, a stronger influence of technical
experts. Like depoliticization, the study of technocracy is quite established (Fischer
2009). It is important to note that technocracy (the influence of expertise) and
depoliticization (the drift of decision-making away from politics) are related but distinct
Both concepts technocracy and depoliticization are clearly not new. Moreover,
they are not problematic by definition. Given the increasing complexity of modern
governance, a certain level of technocracy and depoliticization is unavoidable (Vibert
2007). Two parallel trends, however, tend to make this process of depoliticization
problematic (Flinders and Wood 2014). First, there seems to be a growing concern that
there is something wrong with the democratic nature of contemporary public decision-
making (Crouch 2004; Flinders 2012; Hay 2007;Papadopoulos2013). Studies docu-
ment a sense of deep public distrust (or even apathy) towards politicians and the
political system, leading to a disconnect between the citizens and their political leaders
(Mair 2013). The weakened influence of democratic politics on public decisions favours
mainly a broad array of specialized and often private actors. Vibert (2007) calls it the
rise of the unelected.
A second trend that reinforces the problematic nature of depoliticization is bureau-
cratic and has to do with the relationship between the government, market and society.
For years bureaucratic solutions have been distrusted and market solutions have been
searched for. The global financial crisis challenged certain dominant assumptions (Jessop
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2014). The crisis served to politicize a set of issues that had for some time been lost
beneath a certain sense of inevitability or the more robust logic of TINA (that is, there
is no alternative)(Flinders and Wood 2014, 137, italics in original). The optimistic
feeling that no political choices could and/or should be made because it revolved
around the efficient and technical, even scientific, management of public policy based on
indicators (Davis, Fischer, and Kingsbury 2012)was questioned. Some policy issues
(e.g. stronger regulation of banks, limits to bonuses for public sector managers) became
more politicized, which means that they became openly subject to a political and public
Moving beyond governmental depoliticization
Alasdair Roberts (2010) captures these trends under the banner of the (depoliticized)
logic of discipline’–which clashes with the (politicized) logic of democracy. The
logic of disciplineis a way of thinking about the organization of government functions
that has been applied in many different areas and countries over the past three decades.
It has, according to Roberts, two components. The logic begins with an argument for
reform, driven by a profound scepticism about the merits of conventional methods of
democratic governance (see also Crouch 2004; Flinders 2012; Hay 2007); these usually
lead to public policies that are short-sighted, unstable and designed to satisfy the selfish
concerns of powerful and well-organized interest groups and bureaucracy itself. The
call for reforms should thus aim at exactly the opposite: far-sighted, stable and public
spiritedpublic policies. The second part has more to do with tactics what is the best
way to change governmental processes? Certain essential public functions are best
shifted away towards technocrat-guardians who can make decisions on behalf of the
public, according to this logic. This tactical move is what Roberts calls depoliticization,
because it basically means removing crucial decision-making power from elected
politicians. It is often accompanied by the introduction of legal instruments like
contracts to accompany the shift of authority. This powerful logic of disciplineis
described through many examples: central bank independence, autonomous and private
airports and seaports, independent regulators, fiscal rules and tax collection, changing
role of courts and so on.
Flinders and Wood (2014, 135) describe depoliticization as possibly the dominant
model of statecraft in the 21
century, which is gaining visibility and prevalence, but is
at the same time becoming more elusive. In the American political context, Rubin
(2012) writes about hyper-depoliticization. Although the concept depoliticization is
very interesting, there is more conceptual precision needed. Wood and Flinders (2014)
have distinguished three faces of depoliticization. First, governmental depoliticization
focuses on the transfer of issues or functions from the governmental sphere to the
public sphere through its delegation by elected politicians towards arms length
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agencies, boards, commissions or judicial structures. Second, societal depoliticization
involves the transfer of issues or functions from the public sphere to the private sphere
and the shift towards individualized responses to collective social challenges. It is for
instance about the media, special interests groups and corporations shifting issues off the
agenda for public debate. Third, discursive depoliticization involves the transfer of issues
or functions from the private sphere to the realm of necessity in which things just
happen and are portrayed as if they are natural or normal. It is the denial of
contingency, or the capacity to control/change, through language or speech acts.
Existing research has to a large extent focused on the narrow institutional or
governmental dimension, while its broader dimensions may offer a more fine-grained
analysis of depoliticization. This article argues that this richer conceptualization has a lot
to offer to the study of PPPs and vice versa. In the following section, we explain why
PPPs are so interesting to study in terms of depoliticization and what we can learn from
Many arguments have been used to justify PPPs; Hodge and Greve (2013) list 18 of
them. The initial reasons to start with PPP were mainly of a budgetary nature: getting
around restrictions on formal public sector debt levels. It was a way of providing
infrastructure without increasing public sector borrowing as recorded in the public
accounts or raising tax levels. PPPs also promised to reduce the pressure on public
sector budgets and provide more value for moneyfor taxpayers. Other arguments
have been the shift of risks from governments and citizens to private sector, improved
accountability for performance, on-time and on-budget delivery of infrastructure,
greater innovation and long-term lifecycle benefits (Wall and Connolly 2009).
In spite of the portrayal of PPPs as a new and neutral procurement method for
delivering public services, the choice for PPPs also has political meaning. The choice for
PPP delivery rather than traditional procurement or government production has social
implications that touch upon the core functions of the state such as public infrastructure
and services like roads, schools, hospitals, social housing, prisons, urban development
projects and so on. In the past few years, some authors have recognized the political
consequences of PPP policy (Coghill and Woodward 2005; Flinders 2005; Shaoul
2005), but they remain a weak voice in a field dominated by a chorus of financial,
legal, engineering and managerial experts. In the International Handbook on PublicPrivate
Partnerships (Hodge, Greve, and Boardman 2010), some attention is devoted to the
political nature of PPPs and the authors are concerned that the transfer of public tasks
and responsibilities to private actors may lead to a broken democratic chain of
delegation. Skelcher (2010, 299) states that PPPs raise important issues of democratic
governance due to the changed nature of the state when it engages in cooperative
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activities with private actors. He warns for a democratic deficit due to a shortfall in
accountability arrangements. Flinders (2010, 120121) points to the existence of a
splintered logic in the sense that the values and principles on which PPPs are based and
promoted are at odds with those traditionally found within the political and public
Some authors point explicitly to the principle of ministerial responsibility that is
challenged by PPPs (see also Willems and Van Dooren 2011). Because public tasks and
responsibilities are shared with private partners, the minister loses direct control and
parliament (and thus the people) loses oversight and influence. The shift towards
greater private sector involvement in public service delivery weakens the thread of
accountability between citizens, parliament and those responsible for service delivery
(the executive)(Reeves 2013, 78). The tension between the public demands for
openness and the private desire for commercial confidentiality of information illustrates
this (Siemiatycki 2007). Excessive secrecy undermined the ability of legislators,
auditors, and advocacy groups to challenge the terms of contracts or monitor perfor-
mance of private operators(Roberts 2010, 127). In addition to the problematic
secrecy of the PPP contracts, members of parliament and citizens often lack the
resources and expertise needed to scrutinize these specialized and technical legal
documents. The complexity and technicality of both the PPP projects and contracts
impedes a broad political and public debate to take place.
This democratic deficitinterpretation is important in both the academic literature
and the public opinion, but it does not quite tell the whole story. Other authors in fact
suggested that PPPs could improve accountability for performance, or in other words
have a higher potential for accountability (Flyvbjerg, Bruzelius, and Rothengatter 2003;
Grimsey and Lewis 2007). First, conducting value for moneyanalyses prior to moving
on with a project can be helpful in that regard. Second, detailed contract documents
and performance indicators simplify the process of ex post auditing and accountability.
Third, private financial participation could result in a more realistic risk assessment, a
risk reduction and transfer from government and taxpayers (Reeves 2013). The overall
impact of collaborative forms of governance like PPPs on democratic accountability is
thus more messy, puzzling and ambiguous than often presumed (Willems 2014;
Papadopoulos 2013).
PPPs: a focal point of depoliticization
There are at least three reasons why PPPs are an interesting case of depoliticization.
First, PPPs go beyond technocratic policymaking; it is also about shifting public
functions and responsibilities towards specialized private companies (beyond the
direct control of elected politicians). Most traditional studies of technocracy do
not look at the diffusion of responsibilities between public and private. Second,
PPPs are also an interesting micro-case for what is happening on macro-scale in terms
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of the changing relationships between the government, market and society (and the
impact of the global financial crisis on it). Third, although depoliticization is a much
studied theme, we argue that the relatively youngresearch field of PPPs can add
some new insights that contribute to a more sophisticated and comprehensive
account of the oldconcept (see Wood and Flinders 2014 for a plea on cross-
disciplinary approach). Up to now, depoliticizationhas been studied mainly in
terms of economic, monetary and fiscal policy (Buller and Flinders 2005;Burnham
2001; Jessop 2014).
Depoliticization in PPPs is, however, not entirely straightforward or clear-cut. In
spite of certain tendencies towards more depoliticization in PPPs, elected politicians do
remain key decision-makers in those projects. It is the minister who takes the decision
to proceed with a specific long-term infrastructure project. It is also the minister who
takes the decision to proceed with these projects as a PPP. Members of parliament are
informed about these decisions approve them through voting and are able to hold the
minister accountable. Colin Hay (2014, 302) interprets depoliticization as the process
of erasing the politically contested character of governing: it is not about less politics,
but about a displaced and submerged politics a politics that occurs elsewhere,
typically in sites and forums in which it is less visible to the wider public and less
amenable to democratic scrutiny (see also Burnham 2001). Depoliticization in PPPs is
therefore complex and manifests itself in a subtle and implicit manner. For example, it
can be found in two distinct phases.
First: in the policy preparation and decision phase. The government has turned increas-
ingly to specialized consultancy and advisory firms to help design and implement its
PPP policy and projects. Hodge and Bowman (2006) claim that a real 'consultocracy
has emerged, which drives the global spread of the PPP business. Crouch (2004) argues
that there is an unchallengeable ideology centred on the belief that the expertise of
business is superior to that of the government and its public officials. PPPs are
illustrative for the heavy government reliance on consultancy and advisory activities
(Shaoul, Stafford, and Stapleton 2007). The high level of complexity in PPPs tends to
feed this dependency on technical advisors, which could undermine the decision-making
power and autonomy of politicians. The difficulties of coping with the increasing
technicality also apply to the account-holders like members of parliament and journal-
ists. Depoliticization should be understood as the possible decrease of public sector
expertise and experience.
Second: in the operational phase. PPPs establish a long-term (e.g. 30 years) contract in
which the government agrees to pay a yearly amount for services provided by private
actors (Hodge and Greve 2007). As a result, the future budget autonomy of the
parliament is significantly reduced. PPPs thus have a similar effect on the budget as
public debts (which need to be repaid and therefore limit future policy choices), but in
a more hidden way because PPP investments are not always clearly visible in the public
accounts (Hodge and Greve 2013; Shaoul 2005; Siemiatycki and Farooqi 2012). In
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addition, PPPs are regulated by detailed inflexible contracts. When future policymakers
want to change public policy and adjust PPP contracts, they will face costly renegotia-
tions. Depoliticization should here be understood as the possible limits to future policy/
budget autonomy. PPPs make substantial demands on future political decision-making.
As mentioned earlier, the problematic secrecy of documents due to clauses of
commercial confidentiality further inhibit the public debate. The primacy of politics
in PPPs is shifted partly and indirectly away from elected politicians towards unelected
and less accountable private actors.
Recognizing the political nature of PPPs
Roberts (2010) calls long-term infrastructure projects and contracts (PPPs) one of the
most powerful illustrations of the pervasive force of depoliticization (Jessop 2014, 216).
From the end of the Second World War until the early 1970s, the western advanced
economies had expanded their public infrastructure (roads, highways, schools, hospi-
tals, social housing, etc.) significantly, with political actors taking the main decisions.
From that point on, public sector spending on public infrastructure began a steady and
prolonged decline. The argument for more private provision of infrastructure gained
ground. This trend was driven by a combination of governments being in budgetary
distress due to the crises of the 1970s, financial investors being able to operate in a
global capital market, large construction firms becoming internationally active and
powerful lobby groups promoting the private financing, constructing and operating of
infrastructure projects (Roberts 2010, 121122). The private financing of public
infrastructure significantly increased in the UK due to the expansion of the PFI under
the New LabourGovernment of Tony Blair in the late 1990s (Ball, Heafey, and King
2007; Burnham 2001; Flinders 2005). Other countries worldwide followed the same
path. The most visible form of recent PPPs (especially in Western Europe) are long-
term infrastructure contract partnerships that most of the time are organized within a
Design, Build, Finance, Maintain model (DBFM) (Hodge and Greve 2013).
Roberts (2010) states that the enthusiasm for PPPs provided solid evidence of the
logic of discipline at work. First, the transfer of infrastructure responsibilities to private
contractors would help to remove undue political interference in service provision (e.g.
rewarding political supporters). Second, it also would help to benefit from the
specialized expertise and experience of private contractors in building and operating
infrastructure projects (which is allegedly not the core task and expertise of civil
servants). Besides, private contractors were more likely to deliver their promises due
to performance-related rewards and penalties. Third, PPPs would also help to deal with
the short-sightedness of conventional budget decision-making. It is no longer feasible to
cut back on maintenance costs since they are integrated within lifecycle contracts.
Politically difficult decisions on toll tariffs are shifted towards private companies.
Henceforth, the constant political pressure to lower (or even eliminate) the tolls
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disappeared. Fourth, long-term infrastructure contracts (often more than 25 years)
would also lead to stability, diminishing the risk that changing political ruling elites and
their changing attitudes or opinions would lead to inconsistencies in the long run.
The recognition of the political nature of PPPs is an illustration of a larger agenda of
repoliticizing public decision-making (Bauman 2002; Bourdieu 2003). Certain policy
choices are too easily accepted or policy debates too easily silenced, by stating that they
are either unavoidable or logical according to econom(etr)ic models (Jessop 2014, 9).
John Kay calls the impression of rationality these models convey spurious and points to
their grave limits as objective basis for decision-making (Financial Times, 30 November
2011). He elaborated on this topic in his key note speech delivered at the International
Research Society for Public ManagementConference in Rome in April 2012 entitled
Beware of Franklins Gambit in making decisions:we claim to believe that there is an
objective method by which all right thinking people would, with sufficient diligence and
intelligence, arrive at a good answer to any complex problem. But there is no such
method(see also Financial Times, 18 April 2012).
The time is now?
In this next section, we will argue that the financial crisis provides a window of
opportunity for bringing politics back in. It turned out that poorly regulated capital
markets were vulnerable to the same flaws as conventional democratic politics, as
pointed out by Roberts (2010): short-sightedness, instability and selfishness. The crisis
unmasks the depoliticization argument, as the government and its politicians instantly
were forced to take their place behind the driving wheel. As Flinders (2012, 108)
claims: The market-led theories that had defined the reform agenda for at least three
decades suddenly crumbled in the face of massive injections of public money to stabilize
the market, and politicians from across the political spectrum suggested a need to
politicize certain functions as part of a more interventionist and statist position(original
First of all, timing is crucial because the economic seed-bed of PPP has impoverished
during the crisis (Hodge and Greve 2013). As long as the engine of the (western)
advanced economies was running smoothly, there seemed to be no urgent need to
question the depoliticization of PPPs. The crisis, however, caused liquidity shortages in
the global capital markets that made PPP projects almost impossible to finance and
execute. The financial crisis had an immediate negative impact on the volume of PPP
projects in western countries (EPEC 2012, 1; HM Treasury 2012, 16). Yet, despite this
significant decrease in closed PPP deals since 20072008, PPP policy as such remains
on the agenda. It remains worldwide a relevant public procurement method (and even a
growing business in countries like China, India and Brazil). The prospect of infrastruc-
ture investments without burdening the distressed public budgets has become even
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more attractive than before. Traditional public investments in infrastructure are
difficult, given the already high public debt and tax levels in Western Europe.
The PPP community is currently adapting to the new financial and economic
circumstances. A number of countries tried to make financing available in different
ways: the UK set up a temporary bank Infrastructure Finance Unitwithin the
Treasury, and France set up a large guarantee scheme to support various PPP projects.
The Obama administration is putting PPP more and more on the political agenda as a
way of stimulating the economy and getting out of the depression. Moreover, interna-
tional organizations like the European Commission, OECD, IMF and World Bank still
believe in PPP as policy tool and promote it as recommendable governance model. PPP
policy proves to be rather flexible and has to be seriously rethought by policymakers
(Greve and Hodge 2013; Wall and Connolly 2009).
Second, timing is also important because after more than a decade of PPP policy
(almost two decades in the UK), many projects are operational and value for money
evaluations based on empirical results become possible. Although research points to
mixed and ambiguous results (Ball, Heafey, and King 2003; Hodge and Greve 2013;
Siemiatycki and Farooqi 2012), some possible advantages of PPPs need to be (at least)
nuanced. Roberts (2010) puts the PPP model to the test and concluded that it suffered
from several weaknesses.
1. No short-sightedness? The use of PPPs turned out to be very attractive for
governments because short-term benefits (delivery of the public infrastructure
or service) could be realized while the costs were spread through annual
payments over the long term (often more than 30 years). Hodge and Greve
(2007) dubbed PPP as a mega credit cardfor governments, with many
political incentives to use it. Some authors claimed that the bill of infrastructure
projects was rather blatantly shifted towards the next generations (Shaoul
2005). An illusion of fiscal discipline was upheld (Roberts 2010), but in fact
governments do pay of course for these projects. Most of the time, they do so
at a higher price than they would under traditional public service provision. Or
as John Kay puts it: PPP will increase the efficiency and effectiveness with
which the money is spent. But what is spent is still spent. () whatever vehicle
is used to borrow the money, you still have to pay it back(Financial Times,31
January 1997). After the financial crisis, EU public accounting standards were
seriously tightened, in order to match the rather fictitiouspublic and private
balance sheets with real world liabilities.
2. No instability? The promise of stability rested mainly on the capacity of legal
contracts to lock in governments and private operators. The limits of these
contracts became quickly apparent in practice. They could be neglected or
renegotiated, often in favour of the private contractors. It was assumed that
there would be strong incentives to manage these PPP projects well because of
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the performance-related rewards and penalties formulated in the contract. In
practice, governments appeared rather reluctant to enforce the contractual
terms as stipulated when performance targets were not met. In addition,
when private contractors came into financial trouble, governments often
chose to bail them out or give them extra loan guarantees, especially when it
concerned crucial public infrastructure like public transport systems. When the
private contractors were not in trouble, contracts were, however, not open for
renegotiation and huge windfall profits were made (Shaoul 2005). When things
go right the private sector appears able to make significant financial gains. When
things go wrong it sometimes appears to be difficult for the public purchaser to
impose very significant penalties on the private contractors(Roberts 2010,
132). The effect of neglecting and renegotiating PPP contracts appeared to be
privatize profits but socialize losses, just as happened in the broader financial
sector and the bailout of several too big to failbanks.
3. No selfishness? The promise of public-spiritednesswas based on the idea that
the competitive market would take public procurement out of the hands of
politicians working for their constituencies. The previous paragraph, however,
indicated that the satisfaction of private interests was not eliminated, but
transmuted to different interests: the private interests of the PPP business
(e.g. construction, law, finance and consultancy firms) replaced the private
interests of politicians, bureaucrats or political friends. Some private contractors
have made huge windfall profits with PPP projects at the expense of tax money,
which led Vecchi and Hellowell (2013) to plea for mechanisms to limit (and
share) one-sidedconsequences of the partnership. John Kay says that from
the start, PFI conflated the desirable aim of exploiting private sector manage-
ment in project supervision with the undesirable aim of obscuring public
finances with complex funding structures. It created an industry of advisers
with a vested interest in its own expansion(Financial Times, 16 February 2011).
Hodge and Greve (2013) define PPP moving from a narrow to a broad understanding.
PPPs can be studied as (1) a specific project or activity; (2) a management tool or
organizational form; (3) a policy, or statement as to the role of the government in the
economy; (4) a governance tool or symbol or (5) an historical context and a cultural set
of assumptions. In this article, we make use of the broader lenses of PPP. The
(western) world of PPPs has been affected by the financial crisis: the number of closed
PPP deals has fallen, long-term private finance has become more expensive and difficult
and accounting rules have been tightened (EPEC 2012; HM Treasury 2012). Yet, PPP
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policy remains an interesting case to study, because it is here to stay in new ways as an
important investment and procurement method.
The reason for choosing to study the UK is the prominent role played by the UK
government in developing PPP policy and spreading the PFI model to the rest of the
world. According to a recent market update, the UK is still the largest PPP market in
value terms and the most active market in terms of numbers of transactions (EPEC
2012). Flanders is an interesting case because it is a PPP laggard. Therefore, we can
assume that learning from international experiences led to adapting best practices. It is
worth mentioning that we do not aim to compare both in detail, but point to some
interesting PPP policy tendencies based on studying key document and media reports.
Besides, it would be hard to make such a direct comparison, because there are huge
differences in terms of the scale of PPP activity and maturity in each country/region.
Furthermore, they also have different politicaladministrative contexts. While Flanders
has been more reluctant to move away from the traditional bureaucracy, the UK are
close to Anglo-Saxon managerial model (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011). Nevertheless, this
does not mean that we cannot look into the PPP policy in each country/region to
detect interesting (dis)similarities and learn from both of them.
The big UK PF2 rebrand
The Major Government launched PFI in 1992 allegedly as a way of benefiting from the
management skills and commercial expertise of the private sector. The overall goal of
the PFI policy was to achieve better value for money for the taxpayers by guaranteeing
that infrastructure projects were delivered on time and on budget and that the assets
were well maintained through a lifecycle approach (Ball, Heafey, and King 2003; Wall
and Connolly 2009). It brought some private discipline to the delivery of public
infrastructure projects. More than 700 PFI projects with a total capital cost of 66
billion euros have reached financial close since then. Projects are found in a broad range
of sectors including schools, roads, hospitals, prisons, housing and defence (HM
Treasury 2012,1516). It has been a relatively small (1015 per cent) but important
part of the UK Governments overall investment policy in public infrastructure and
services. Although the British PFI model was enthusiastically transferred to other
countries worldwide, it has always been rather controversial in the UK both in the
academic literature (e.g. Ball, Heafey, and King 2007; Flinders 2005; Shaoul 2005,
2010; Shaoul, Stafford, and Stapleton 2011) and in the press (e.g. John Kay in Financial
Times, 16 February 2011 and 31 January 1997).
When in May 2010 Gordon Brown lost the general election in the UK, PFI policy was
put to a test. While in the opposition, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer George
Osborne called the PFI a discreditedmodel, an accounting wheeze beset with perverse
incentives (The Guardian, 27 May 2013, and The Financial Times, 5 December2012).
Before the 2010 election, Nick Clegg, now Deputy Prime Minister, also branded PFI as
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dodgy accounting. Despite these criticisms, both kept working with similar private
financing schemes when confronted with a harsh economic and financial reality.
Moreover, the Conservatives wanted to take some distance from PFI, because of its
association with Gordon Brown and New Labour, but ideologically they were in favour of
expanding private influence and finance in key investment decision-making (The
Conservatives 2009, 37). It thus made a lot of sense in political strategic terms to
question PFI policy. In 2011, the Cameron Government initiated a fundamental reassess-
ment of PFI, based on a broad consultation with all professional stakeholders involved
(academics, private contractors, consultants, public officials, action groups, etc.). In
March 2011, the Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons announced an
inquiry into the future of PFI, building further on the previous study work of the National
Audit Office (NAO) and the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. On 19 August
2011, the Treasury Select Committee concluded that PFI does not provide taxpayers
good value for money and that stricter criteria should be introduced to govern its use. A
similarly critical report was published one month later by the Public Accounts Committee
of the House of Commons, stating that returns to investors have been too high which led
to huge excess costs for public authorities. After dozens of inquiries and interviews with
the PPP field, they found no convincing evidence of the better value for money of PFI and
thus no justification for its use.
Although these two parliamentary reports had definitely put pressure on the PFI
model, the (political) incentives to keep using it remained strong. The UK economy
faced a deep recession and needed extra public spending and investments. PFI enabled
the government to do this, while paying later and in such a way that the official level of
public sector borrowing remained unaffected. Mark Hellowell, however, predicted that
some kind of change was coming: While the balance sheet benefit of PFI must be
retained, there is a political imperative for change even if its only a change of
acronym. () The key question is whether the reform will go far enough(in Public
Finance Opinion, 29 November 2011). In January 2012, the government responded to
these reports, as did the Office for Budget Responsibility and the NAO. In December
2012, the government presented a new investment strategy for public infrastructure
PF2. The PF2 model promises more flexibility, transparency and better value for
money. The ambitions were formulated as follows:
We have sought to provide access to wider sources of equity and debt finance to improve the value for
money of financing projects; to increase the transparency of liabilities created by long-term projects and
the equity returns achieved by investors; to speed up and reduce the cost of the procurement process;
and to provide greater flexibility in the provision of services. The taxpayer will become a shareholder in
projects and share in the on-going investor returns. (HM Treasury 2012,3)
The response to PF2 was rather predictable and mixed: those in favour of the old PFI
were relieved that the model survived the reassessment, while those who were critical
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of PFI saw little improvement. It is illustrative that DLA Piper, a major legal firm
involved in PPPs worldwide, reacted to PF2 in their brochure called PF2 The Big
Rebrandas follows: To the relief of the infrastructure community, the Treasury has
not thrown the baby out with the bathwaterand has taken much of the learning
generated since the launch of the Private Finance Initiative in 1992 to form the
foundation for what it has rebranded as PF2”’(DLA Piper 2012, 1). Or, in other
words: The new model PFI is similar to the old one, with only a few minor changes
(Financial Times, 5 December 2012). PF2 is described as a rebrand and refinement
which seeks to entice new investors into the market by limiting their financial exposure
and keeping more risks with the public sector(The Guardian, 27 May 2013). Because
equity is a more expensive way of raising money than debt, the price paid by taxpayers
for the projects may rise, especially in combination with the reduced risk transfer
towards the private sector. Increasing equity to these levels will make the project more
expensive. Its difficult to see how this can be value for money to the taxpayer
(Richard Abadie, head of projects and infrastructure of PWC, quoted in Financial
Times, 5 December 2012). The rationale behind this shift towards costlier capital for
less risk transfer is attracting large institutional investors like pension funds and
insurance companies.
In practice, PF2 has had a difficult start as three high-profile PF2 investments are
currently falling back on public funds: the priority school program(2.4 billion euros),
the Future Force 2020 scheme for military accommodation (1.2 billion euros) and the
rolling stock for the Crossrail project (1.2 billion euros). This return to traditional
public finance does not have to be a bad thing, as it leads to more options and choices
(beyond PPP), but it does lead to less investment projects in total. The scarce public
investment funds are being used as substitutes for faltering PF2 projects, which is
probably not the best investment policy for the UK economy that needs extra stimuli
and new infrastructure (The Economist, 9 March 2013, 3032). Mark Hellowell still calls
PF2 the only game in townand points to the difficulties of a fundamental reform of
PFI, because it is almost irresistible for politicians due to the budgetary advantages.
According to him, it is very telling that the banker Geoffrey Spence a former head of
PFI policy at the Treasury and adviser to Alistair Darling is currently the head of the
Infrastructure Unit team at the Treasury. The much-maligned acronym PFIis on the
way out, but key personnel stay on board just as the commitment to off-balance sheet
financing is likely to remain (in Public Finance Opinion, 6 December and 23 March
One could thus argue that in recent years PFI has been (re)politicized in the UK at
both the societal and discursive levels through parliamentary inquiries, consultations
of the PPP field, media reports and eventually evoked a new policy approach.
Although the end result named PF2 may disappoint most commentators, the main
point is here that it was put explicitly on the political agenda and that a broad public
debate took place on this technical and complex topic. These parliamentary and
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public processes of evaluating PPP policy may seem evident, but the Flemish
counterexample shows that it is not.
The big Flemish silence
Flanders started rather late with PPPs. During the 20042009 legislature, the Flemish
Government launched several large PPP projects for an estimated sum of 6 billion euros
in diverse policy sectors like road infrastructure, public transport, social housing,
schools, welfare, sports facilities and so on (Leterme 2004). PPPs were undertaken
to achieve societal, operational or financial added-value, according to the PPP decree
(Flemish Government 2003). The Belgian Court of Audit (2009) has published a critical
report on PPPs in Flanders. They examined in 2008 the preparation and initiation of 11
PPP projects. They noticed that in the start and preparation stage, a higher emphasis
was placed on budget neutrality (read: off-balance sheet in the European System of
Accounts) than on the proclaimed added value. The Flemish PPP path turned out to be
a slow and difficult one, because of a variety of reasons: some large PPPs were put on
hold due to planning discussions and protests of action groups, others like the school
infrastructure project faced complex implementation difficulties (with more than 200
schools bundled in one design, build, finance, maintainprogramme) (Van Gestel et al.
2014). Moreover, the government chose for a very specific and complex hybrid
(contractual and participative) PPP model, which was internationally unseen and
untested. In addition, the global financial crisis of 20072008 brought the three main
Belgian banks to the brink of bankruptcy (Fortis, KBC and Dexia).
After a decade of Flemish PPP projects and policy, the track record is modest: some
projects are operational and evaluated rather positively (e.g. Via Invest Zaventem,
Liefkenshoek Rail Link in the Port of Antwerp), many large PPP projects are still in
preparation or early execution, which makes an assessment of value for money
premature (e.g. sports facilities and school infrastructure). The promise of quick
delivery of large infrastructure projects has however not been fulfilled, as the
Flemish Government is still mainly dealing with the first generation PPPs. At the
regional level, only a few new PPP projects have been added. Other PPP projects like
the megaproject Oosterweel highway link in Antwerp (estimated value 3.25 billion
euros) and the North-South highway link in Limburg (estimated value of 377 million
euros) are failures. They are contested by local action groups and politicians due to
planning concerns and not due to their PPP nature. There is a lively debate on the
precise location of the project and its spatial and environmental implications, but not on
the way of financing or operating it. The rationale for this debate seems to be not PPP-
related, albeit not in a direct manner. It may be possible that the size and scope of both
projects, which turns them nowadays rather quickly into privately financed ones, has
influenced and even fuelled the public contestation.
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In Flanders, PPP policy as such is no longer visible on the political agenda and not
explicitly discussed in the public forum. While PPP policy is continued in practice, the
PPP label has become politically contaminated. Some examples illustrate this. Between
2004 and 2009, there was every year a specific policy note on PPP written by the
Flemish Prime Minister, but since 2009, this initiative was abandoned. In the current
20092014 Flemish coalition agreement (in total 125 pages), the word PPP was only
mentioned twice and the word DBFM once. It is stressed in official communication that
PPP is just another procurement method. On 7 January 2014, the Flemish Prime
Minister presented the 7th annual progress report on large PPP projects in the
commission general policy, finance and budget(Flemish Parliament 2014,68).
Although the total sum of investments through PPPs is estimated at 9.9 billion euros
(Flemish Government 2013, 42), there were only four members of parliament who
briefly responded to the presentation. They requested some additional information, but
they did not ask profound questions on the PPP policy and projects.
It seems that the political status of the label PPP is concealed. No Flemish minister,
politician or political party openly defends PPPs (not even the pro-market liberals).
Flemish PPP policy has gone under the radar of political scrutiny and thus remains to be
(re)politicized. Interestingly, most media reporting on PPP projects are also rather
silent about PPP financing and implementation. For example, on 22 February 2014, the
Flemish quality newspaper De Standaard reported on the start of the construction works
of the new highway A11. Despite its huge cost price of 674 million euros, the article
did not mention the PPP nature of this project. Only the more specialized financial
newspaper De Tijd specified the financing details. Another example is the announcement
on 18 October 2013 of six large road and water infrastructure projects (so-called
missing-links) with an estimated value of 750 million euros. Although this means the
continuation of large DBFM projects in road infrastructure (second programme of six
projects), the fact that it is realized through PPP was only marginally mentioned in the
press releases and some news articles.
Several reasons could explain this. Flanders has a proportional political system with
rather large coalition governments. The coalition agreements typically leave only small
margins for political scrutiny and debate. Moreover, in Flanders, almost all political
parties have once been supporting PPP projects and policy. There is not one party or
politician who really embodies PPP that can be used as a political target. Another
reason may be the complexity of the particular Flemish PPP model: a hybrid between
contractual and concession agreements. The limited legibility of the PPP structures
requires considerable study efforts from members of parliament and journalists to
understand what is going on. It also requires great communication skills to get
criticisms across to a wider public.
Yet, PPPs have long-term societal and financial consequences, which limit the future
budget autonomy of the parliament and future public policy options for the next
30 years or more. Large PPP infrastructure projects and their merits/costs need to
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be discussed and questioned because of their PPP nature. When the current Flemish PPP
projects are fully operational, the Flemish Government will have to pay yearly an
estimated sum of 672 million euros (with the megaproject Oosterweel link in Antwerp
not even included) (Flemish Government 2013, 45). This is a huge amount of money
given a total public budget of 28 billion euros and a public investment budget of around
4 billion euros. Meanwhile, fiscal stress is increasing. Hence, PPP will most likely
become even more attractive in the near future.
While the contents of many PPP projects may attract some controversy, the much-
needed public discussion of PPP as a mode of governance is lacking. It is, however,
necessary to break the disturbing silencesurrounding them (Keane 2012). The UK
PFI review could serve as an admittedly imperfect step up towards this politicization of
The contemporary policy choice for PPP as mode of governance is largely apolitical,
meaning that it has been argued for as something that is obvious, logical and even
inevitable. PPP has been reduced to a neutral management or procurement tool, of
which the political character is concealed. We argue in this article that PPP policy needs
explicit political and societal support given its budgetary and social impact for the years
and decades to come. This argument for introducing a (re)politicizing dynamic in PPP
policy should not be interpreted as a critique on private financed and executed public
service provision as such, but as a critique on the fact that the PPP policy is mostly
taken for granted (and shielded from public scrutiny and control).
PPPs are a prime example of governmental depoliticization, meaning that the tasks and
responsibilities are transferred from the governmental sphere to the nongovernmental
sphere through its delegation towards specialized private consortia. Although this
narrow institutionaldimension is as such relevant, it has been rather well established
in the literature. There are, however, two broader and implicit dimensions of depo-
liticization, which are often overlooked. As said earlier, societal depoliticization is about
the media, interest groups, and corporations shifting issues off the agenda for public or
political debate. It means that the public nature of infrastructure projects and service
delivery is no longer recognized and there is a shift going on towards more individua-
lized responses to collective social challenges. Discursive depoliticization is the third
dimension; policy choices are portrayed as being natural or normal because supposedly
there is no alternative. It therefore focuses on the role of language and speech acts to
depoliticize tasks and responsibilities (Hodge and Greve 2010; Klijn 2010). Figure 1
visualizes this growing depoliticization dynamic in PPP infrastructure projects.
When applied to Flanders, depoliticization in PPP policy is steadily expanding in all
three dimensions. First, PPP policy is continued in the facts, more tasks and
Willems & Van Dooren: (De)politicization dynamics in PPPs 17
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responsibilities are placed at arms length of the minister. Second, PPP policy is no
longer clearly visible on the political and public agendas, and the public nature of
infrastructure or service delivery is concealed and silenced. Third, PPP is portrayed as
the only option for doing large and complex infrastructure projects in budgetary
difficult times. It shows that the impact of depoliticization runs deeper than just the
governmental dimension. The societal and discursive ones are equally important but
receive less attention because they happen more gradually and opaquely.
The evaluation of the PFI model and the launch of the PF2 strategy in the UK can be
considered as adjusting the dynamic interplay between (de)politicizing tendencies in
PPP policy, especially at the societal and discursive levels: parliamentary inquiries were
held, a broad consultation of the professional PPP field took place, parliamentary
reports were very critical and clear in their recommendations, the media picked up
on this complex and technical storyline and the government defended a new policy
strategy. All these facts gave some counterweight and contributed to the necessary
restoration of the balance between different (de)politicization tendencies in PPPs (as
Discursive Depoliticization
Societal Depoliticization
Governmental Depoliticization
Flemish PPP silence
Figure 1: Three dimensions of depoliticization in the UK and Flemish context
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shown in Figure 1). Yet, a fundamental reform of PFI is more than just changing the
name of the brand and attracting a different kind of private finance (e.g. pension funds
and insurance companies). The political incentives to enter into schemes of off-balance
sheet financing are still there and can become even greater due to a shrinking public
budget. Although the (re)politicization dynamic should thus not be overestimated, the
UK stands in sharp contrast with the troublesome unilateral depoliticization in Flanders.
This article argues that there are outspoken depoliticization tendencies in PPP policy
and that they are a cause for concern. Flinders (2012, 93) states that Depoliticization,
in all its forms, represents a dangerous illusion. It is the denial of politics while
continuing politics by other means. An issue or a policy becomes no less political in
terms of its impact or importance, just because its decision-making process is shifted
towards places that are less publicly visible and controllable. By emphasizing the
problematic societal and discursive depoliticization in PPP policy, we have advanced the
empirical understanding of the (de)politicization dynamics, based on a cross-disciplinary
approach (as plead for by Flinders and Wood 2014; Hay 2014). It is important that the
political nature of PPP projects is recognized and that policy alternatives are debated in
the public forums. This may give the impression that democratic politics is all good and
depoliticization all bad, while it is of course not that clear-cut and easy. The challenge is
to get the mix right. Depoliticization in PPP policymaking in Western European
countries has been taken too far with substantial democratic implications. This balance
needs to be adjusted. The comparison between UK and Flemish PPP policy shows that
the UK has made some progress towards this goal compared to Flanders. Yet, even in
the UK, a lot of work lies ahead in terms of real policy changes.
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22 Public Management Review
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... Second, within democracies, transparency as a requirement for political or public accountability is considered extremely important (Bovens, 2006). However, private partners often demand business confidentiality and secrecy of documents related to the PPP, which can be problematic for the public partner, as confidentiality would reduce opportunities for public debate, democratic accountability and political control over the project (Willems and Van Dooren, 2016). ...
... Third, a major concern relates to the government's role as the ultimate risk bearer. Willems and Van Dooren (2016) state that when private partners have faced financial troubles, governments have often bailed them out or made extra financial guarantees to keep crucial public infrastructure and services functioning. For governments, infrastructurerelated PPP projects can simply be too big to allow them to fail, which indicates that some uncertainties or risks would be retained completely by the public sector partner (Broadbent et al., 2008). ...
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Purpose Uncertainty, a state of unknowing linked to threats and opportunities, is a key characteristic of megaprojects, making it challenging for government officials and politicians to decide on their initiation. For them, implementation by the private sector adds an extra layer of complexity and uncertainty to megaproject planning. In this context, only a few studies have focussed on governing and the mobilization of uncertainty arguments in communication between government actors and private developers either in favour of or against megaprojects. The purpose of this article is to shed light on how private megaproject proposals progress towards political acceptance or rejection in public decision-making. Design/methodology/approach This process of public decision-making on private megaproject proposals is examined in the case of the Helsinki–Tallinn undersea rail tunnel. In line with the interpretive research tradition, the authors’ study draws on a qualitative methodology underpinned by social constructionism. The research process can be characterized as abductive. Findings The authors’ findings suggest that while public decision-making on megaprojects is a conflictual and dynamic process, some types of uncertainty are relatively more important in affecting the perceived feasibility of the projects in the eyes of public sector decision-makers. Originality/value This study contributes to the debate on uncertainty management in megaprojects, proposing a new type of uncertainty – uncertainty about privateness – which has not been explicitly visible thus far.
... Public-private partnerships (PPPs), as a mode of cooperation between the government and private enterprises, mobilize a combination of public and private resources to achieve specific goals [13]. The use of PPPs for infrastructure development is an effective way to reduce the associated costs and risks, promote technological innovation in enterprises [14], and reduce budget deficits [15]. PPPs are now widely used in infrastructure development and public services, such as water pollution, roads, and environmental protection [16][17][18]. ...
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Inefficiencies in the construction and demolition waste (CDW) recycling supply chain constrain green innovation in the construction industry. However, existing studies have not analyzed the innovation behavior of recyclers in CDW recycling public‒private partnership (PPP) projects from the perspective of innovation diffusion theory. To reveal the mechanism of recyclers’ innovation behavior in CDW recycling PPP projects in which recyclers and remanufacturers jointly participate in the operation stage, this study uses a Stackelberg game to analyze the optimal innovation strategy choice and total profit of the CDW recycling supply chain among the two innovation paths of green independent innovation and green imitation innovation under the combined effects of technology spillover, consumer green sensitivity, and government price subsidies to consumers. The main conclusions are as follows. (1) Remanufacturers and recyclers can improve their own innovation level and profit through technology spillover. (2) The total profit of the CDW recycling supply chain changes dynamically with the level of spillover. (3) The government price subsidy to consumers does not always improve the total profit of the CDW recycling supply chain. (4) The effect of consumers’ green sensitivity on the total profit of the CDW recycling supply chain shows heterogeneity with the innovation path of recyclers and the level of technological spillover. This study not only enriches the theoretical study of the green supply chain but also provides a basis for decision-making for recyclers and governments in practice.
... Indeed, many scholars have raised concerns that private firms with large investments will have more leverage in project decision-making, creating difficulties for public sponsors in controlling the project and monitoring its performance (Sclar 2015;Bunch 2012). Instead of achieving VfM, in some cases, the involvement of private capital leads to a loss of public values (Andrews and Entwistle 2010;Willems and Van Dooren 2016;Reynaers 2014;Forrer et al. 2010;Haque 2001). Private capital can help, but it is never a silver bullet for the challenge of infrastructure deficiency (Hodge and Greve 2007). ...
The ability to leverage private investment is a key selling point of infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs). Research has shown that to attract private capital to infrastructure projects government support is needed. However, the specific instruments of government support and their configurations remain unclear. Drawing insights from institutional theories and the public finance literature, this paper examines the government’s institutional and financial tools for leveraging private capital. Based on a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis of 34 road projects in the U.S. we reveal the multiple configurations of government support strategies that are consistent with high private investment.
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The localization and generalization of the public-private partnership (PPP) is a controversial issue discussed in the research agenda of PPP. China has played a central role in global PPP development in recent years. This study reviews the policy and development of PPP in China through the lens of punctuated-equilibrium theory. A conceptual framework of China-type PPP, including projects, organizations, functions, policies, and governance, is then developed for analysis and interpretation through global comparisons. This study indicates the possibility of a "China model" in PPP due to China's distinct evolutionary process, characteristics, and representative PPP, but requires further extraction, summarization, and enrichment with sustainable development. In addition, the "China model" will have a potential peer-level value for other emerging markets.
Rising and changing citizen expectations, dire fiscal constraints, unfulfilled political aspirations, high professional ambitions, and a growing number of stubborn societal problems have generated an increasing demand for innovation of public policies and services. Drawing on the latest research, this book examines how current systems of public governance can be transformed in order to enhance public innovation. It scrutinizes the need for new roles and public sector reforms, and analyzes how the gradual transition towards New Public Governance can stimulate the exploration and exploitation of new and bold ideas in the public sector. It argues that the key to public innovation lies in combining and balancing elements from Classic Public Administration, New Public Management and New Public Governance, and theorizes how it can be enhanced by multi-actor collaboration for the benefit of public officials, private stakeholders, citizens, and society at large.
Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are under discussion because of the mixed results achieved and the deteriorated trust between public and private actors. However, abandoning PPP could represent a severe mistake in public policy. Based on the recent Italian experience, the authors argue that a new approach to PPP, based on the ESG/SDGs and Impact Investing agenda, could represent an opportunity, both for the public and the private sectors, to contribute to solving wicked problems while generating societal value. This Commentary paves the way for a reflection on this renewed approach to PPP and the need for a new set of skills in the public and private sectors to support the transition.
Public–private partnerships (PPP) are the contractual arrangements between public and private parties to deliver infrastructure and services in which costs, risks, and benefits are shared. Good governance of PPPs, traditionally associated with an effective regulatory and institutional framework, appropriate risk-sharing, competitive and transparent procurement have recently been broadened to include citizens’ perspectives. Turkey uses PPPs to deliver public infrastructures such as airports, energy plants, highways, bridges, and hospitals. Our first section into Turkey’s PPP experience explores how the partnership between state and capital is instituted. We reveal nine crucial governance problems: Complexities of megaprojects, fragmented legal and regulatory framework, weak institutional capacity, risk-sharing discrepancies, poor value for money, non-affordable public services, lack of transparency, limited accountability, and disregard for environmental sustainability. We maintain that a deeper understanding of PPPs requires complementing this governance analysis with insights from critical political economy. Accordingly, we draw a critical political economy framework to explain why, when, and how PPPs in Turkey are utilized in our second section. We underline the neoliberal transformation and financialized capital accumulation dynamics. We argue that PPP projects have fuelled the construction-led economic growth model, distributed resources to pro-government capital groups, and reproduced political power in Turkey.
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This paper analysed the role of public private partnership (PPP) in expediting ICT policy implementation. The study used the case of Malawi as an example of a low-income status country in Africa. Data for the study was gathered through key informant interviews and verified using secondary data. The findings showed that public private partnership supported the development and endorsement of the ICT policy as a priority of government activities. Further, the public private partnership supported ICT sector improvements in legal and regulatory frameworks, human capacity, telecommunications infrastructure and ICT access in public institutions. The government benefited from the external parties in supporting the ICT investment programs. To some extent, ICT policy implementation focused more on the strategic level of government programs and the supply side of the ICT sector. The study offers insights into how the public private partnership supported execution of ICT policy programs, processes and politics in the context of a developing country.
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Back cover text: Megaprojects and Risk provides the first detailed examination of the phenomenon of megaprojects. It is a fascinating account of how the promoters of multibillion-dollar megaprojects systematically and self-servingly misinform parliaments, the public and the media in order to get projects approved and built. It shows, in unusual depth, how the formula for approval is an unhealthy cocktail of underestimated costs, overestimated revenues, undervalued environmental impacts and overvalued economic development effects. This results in projects that are extremely risky, but where the risk is concealed from MPs, taxpayers and investors. The authors not only explore the problems but also suggest practical solutions drawing on theory and hard, scientific evidence from the several hundred projects in twenty nations that illustrate the book. Accessibly written, it will be essential reading in its field for students, scholars, planners, economists, auditors, politicians, journalists and interested citizens.
Problem: Information is often suppressed when public infrastructure is planned by design-build-finance-operate (DFBO) public/private partnerships, an increasingly popular strategy for procuring transportation facilities, hospitals, and schools. Purpose: I aim to identify strategies to increase transparency and accountability in large infrastructure projects delivered through public/private partnerships. Methods: I studied the case of an award winning public/private partnership to plan a rapid rail line in Vancouver by comparing confidential documents released after project approval to the information available while planning was underway. Results and conclusions: I find that although this project followed many best practices for achieving accountable and transparent public/private partnerships, in some instances it kept unfavorable study results from public view, limiting the potential for meaningful public involvement in the planning process. Takeaway for practice: I identify the following strategies to increase transparency and accountability in large infrastructure projects, including those delivered through private-public partnerships: (1) using a clear and narrow standard for what information should be kept confidential; (2) ensuring that public officials with responsibility for project decisions and their staffs have full access to all project information, including that not made public; (3) appointing a watchdog to see that these standards are upheld; and (4) implementing a decision process that allows public input and places the burden for proving that information should remain confidential on the entity making the request.