In PPP instruments introduced over the last few years – like FDOV, FDW, Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) and Ghana WASH Window – much attention and discussion has gone to the way in which the private sector can best be engaged. And rightly so, because the main purpose of these instruments has been to bring public and private finance and energy together in addressing development problems. Engaging private sector in this way has been new and many lessons are being learned ‘as we speak and work’.
Recently however, another issue has received extra scrutiny: the engagement of the public sector! It is broadly acknowledged that engagement of public actors can be essential in making PPPs a success. The public actors can adopt and promote new solutions, sharpen policies, adapt regulations, install improved financing arrangements, promote public awareness, etc.
Public sector engagement as a challenge
Nevertheless, engaging the public sector can be challenging. This came up in interviewing PPPs as an input into the Mid Term Review (MTR) of FDW. Private sector regularly expressed its concern about a lack of solid engagement of the public sector and that that can damage success and sustainability. The issue surfaced even stronger in the portfolio scan of the FDOV that PPPLab recently finalised (and will be featured on our website shortly). While DGIS considers itself a formal partner in the FDOV projects – different from FDW – the very low number of Southern public actors directly engaged as partners in this portfolio is striking.
Challenges in public actor engagement also emerged in a recent seminar at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) where the PBL report on ‘Public–private partnerships in development cooperation – Potential and pitfalls for inclusive green growth‘ was discussed.
Different types of engagement
In that conversation at the Ministry it appeared relevant to make a basic distinction between different forms of government engagement:
- As a partner in the financing of the PPP
- As a partner in the consortium implementing the PPP
- As a a partner in the broader platform of key stakeholders around a PPP
In this context it is also important to make a clear distinction between ...