Making PPPs Effective

(L-R) Roshan Sahay of the Asian Development Bank, Matthew Gamser of IFC, Seetharam Kallidaikurichi of the National University of Singapore, and Michiel Verhoeven of Microsoft discuss their thoughts on PPP.


Development institutions and governments alike once viewed public-private partnership (PPP) as a very powerful tool for addressing key coordination problems, particularly in emerging market infrastructure. However, in sectors such as healthcare, sanitation, energy, and transportation; project design and implementation have generally proved to be challenging. Even well-designed and well-funded projects have faced substantial risks, ranging from political protest to rent-seeking. Impact Forum hosted a panel discussion which addressed various frameworks for thinking about opportunities and risks in large-scale public private partnerships; the panel was moderated by Professor Seetharam Kallidaikurichi of the National University of Singapore, while a distinguished roster of panelists joined from the private and public sectors, including Michiel Verhoeven of Microsoft, Roshan Sahay of the Asian Development Bank, and Matthew Gamser of IFC. The speakers provided a broad definition of the category that encompassed capacity building and national programs to stimulate social entrepreneurship as well as more familiar examples from large-scale infrastructure projects.

As Mr. Verhoeven noted, goal alignment among the government, corporations, and civil society was frequently among the most difficult aspects of developing effective PPPs. Addressing the disconnect between profit maximization, national self-interest, and social good remained challenging for even the best-designed programs. Professor Kallidaikurichi argued that civil society frequently faced the most significant risks in PPP because they were rarely represented at the table, and argued that “we need to migrate to a new paradigm where we see society partnerships as an essential partnership rather than being peripheral or an addition to public-private partnerships.” Mr. Sahay addressed challenges to sustainability and risks of “short-termism” in developing PPPs, while Mr. Gamser spoke to the importance of using these partnerships to foster entrepreneurship. The panelists agreed that transparency and accountability by all stakeholders would be crucial to supporting the effectiveness of PPPs going forward.