The yet to be known PPP

Now that the website is ready and the first project is under way, I ask myself what I should say when someone asks me why I decided to create the PPP Brazil website.

At first, I would automatically answer: there are many people and entities in Brazil engaged – both academically and in practice – in the PPP subject. However, until now there was no place – not even on the Web – to consolidate and divulge the information they create.

Moreover, PPPs are a popular topic not only in Brazil. Today, countries such as the United Kingdom and Portugal are discussing their experiences, and aligning the Brazilian PPP agenda with the international agenda of debates on PPP instruments and policies would be of utmost importance. Many countries are facing the challenge of designing strategies to attract private sector investments in infrastructure development, and getting to know their experiences is a good way to develop the Brazilian know-how.

But there is another reason: when it comes to the subject of PPPs, although there is extensive information on the topic available to the public, such information is found in a variety of separate sources; and not having such information compiled and organized for the Brazilian public would be a shame.

That being said, here are the purposes of the PPP Brazil website: i) to connect the people and entities interested in the topic of PPPs; ii) to compare the Brazilian experiences with the international experiences; and iii) to organize the information and divulge the knowledge available on the subject.

All of these things contributed to our decision to create the PPP Brazil website. But the main reason was the poor quality of the public debate  in Brazil about the strategies and instruments available for use by the public sector to attract and channel private sector investments into activities of public interest.   

This situation adversely affects citizens taken individually, public interest itself and, I dare say, the investors who decided to engage in the provision of public services.

When citizens cannot see the logic behind private and public decisions and responsibilities regarding public services, citizens’ capacity to act and interfere in such reality is inevitably reduced. Citizens lose the capacity – both from a political and from a private perspective – to interfere in and voice their opinion to existing channels (on elections, customer care, and others).

From the perspective of the public interest, this situation does not help form individual opinions capable of shaping major decisions on the structure and method of provision of public services. Whenever individual perceptions of the public service structure remain at a superficial level, no conditions are created for higher quality public debate on political decisions regarding, for example, the government’s role in the economy.

Finally, from the perspective of investors, the quality of public debate is, indeed, a sign of the risks involved in infrastructure investments. What is safer: investing in a sector where users know their own rights and responsibilities and the rights and responsibilities of private partners and government entities, or investing in a sector where users are unaware not only of their own rights and responsibilities but also of the rights and responsibilities of the public entity and private service provider?

Just as investors consider it safer to invest in countries that have an independent judiciary, independent regulators and well-drafted and performed concession contracts, so would they – I believe – prefer to invest in countries in which users’ perception of public services is clearer, better structured, and more active.

If a government entity wished to breach a concession contract and this would increase tariffs or public expenditures, users and citizens aware of the impact of such decisions on their lives would likely stand up to the public entity.   So the point here is that the quality of debate on how public services are structured is likely to result in less risky business environments for private sector investors.

This is another reason why we created the website PPP Brazil. Even though the website is intended for those who already know, research and work with PPPs, technical questions regarding PPPs do not carry the answers within themselves. These questions impact the lives of millions of users and citizens every day. It is up to those who know, research and work with PPPs to answer them.

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