Transport and Covid-19: responses and resources

Better Regulation of Public-Private Partnerships for Transport Infrastructure

Roundtable Report 151
Better Regulation of Public-Private Partnerships for Transport Infrastructure cover image

Many governments seek to attract private finance for infrastructure through public-private partnerships (PPPs) in order to maintain investment at the same time as limiting public spending. Experience with PPPs has, however, been mixed. Some transport PPP projects have delivered major cost savings but many more have exceeded their budgets. PPPs are prone to overestimating revenues and when projects run into financial difficulty, risks have a tendency to revert to the taxpayer. 

The report examines the nature of risks and uncertainty associated with different types of PPP project and the practical consequences of transferring risks to private partners. It assesses the fiscal impact of PPPs and discusses budget procedures and accounting rules to limit the public liabilities they can create. The report also reviews the relative merits of tolls, availability payments and regulated asset base models for attracting finance for public infrastructure from private investors on a sustainable basis.

Policy Insights

  • A mix of financing models spreads risks.
  • A dedicated budget for PPPs, set in relation to the rate at which future liabilities will be accumulated, can provide such a limit.
  • Explicit consideration of alternative financing arrangements should be employed in determining whether to proceed with PPP projects.
  • It is recommended that governments require PPP projects to pass tests of affordability and to clear the hurdle rates of return generally applied to publicly financed transport projects.
  • The expected cost of PPP projects should take account of cost inflation resulting from the propensity for projects to be renegotiated.
  • At the individual project level, risks should be assigned to the party best able to manage them, along with rights to make related decisions.
  • Assigning demand risk is not straightforward and risk sharing arrangements are therefore common.
  • Continuity of resources and expertise is essential for addressing strategic behaviour and optimism bias more generally.
  • Regulatory agencies are well placed to ensure transparency and accountability by publishing reports on the criteria employed to make decisions and publishing contracts.

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