Govt. better equipped to develop public private partnerships

The Ministry tasked with boosting Samoa’s public-private partnerships is now better certified to do so, with two public servants completing a year-long certification programme.

Ministry of Public Enterprises’ Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Fogapoa Samoa, and Principal Privatisation Analyst, August Ah Yen, are the first Samoans, and among the first in the region, to become Certified Public-Private Partnership (P.P.P.) Professionals. 

Mr. Samoa said P.P.P.s are a more modern approach to developing major projects, especially in infrastructure, which is why the Government is choosing to upskill in this field.

“[It] includes combination of skills from projects identification and screening for P.P.P. suitability and affordability, appraising and structuring, executing tender and awarding contract, to contract management,” he explained.

“The process requires a lot of advance planning to be supported by good governance, accountability and transparency of several Government organisations who have to work together to ensure such a project is viable.”

Jan-Willem Middelburg, Director of Cybiant, which delivered the training said the programme is able to teach years’ worth of knowledge and best practice theory about P.P.P.s in just three weeks, helping Samoa achieve its corporate goals.

P.P.P.s are arrangements between governments and businesses, typically to improve services. The Samoa Submarine Cable Company, which is a partnership between the Government of Samoa and mobile operators, is an example of a P.P.P. that set out to improve internet connectivity.

Mr. Samoa said more infrastructure projects are on the horizon for Samoa as he and Mr. Ah Yen continue to scope out appropriate partnership options.

“We may be different in sizes or economies against the successful nations who have successfully built toll bridges and roads, rail systems, airports, ports, hospitals, schools, building construction, landfills and more as P.P.P.s, but similar practices […] are appropriate to our local infrastructure systems.”

In 2014 the Government approved a P.P.P. Plan, which was then revised in 2015 when the Ministry of Public Enterprise was established. 

A Steering Committee made up of the Ministries of Public Enterprise, Finance, Commerce Industry and Labour and the Attorney General’s Office is also responsible for P.P.P. oversight.

The World Bank has said infrastructure projects in particular can be challenging for Governments to “get right,” according to the Yale School of Management.

But when does as partnerships with the private sector, projects can be procured more efficiently and may be more highly invested in.

But they do cost more than purely public projects. Yale reports the P.P.P. model “is effective for high-cost, high-visibility projects that involve social and technical complexities, with the potential to build in synergies, develop competencies, and create an effective framework for alliances and cooperation, especially when community stakeholders and experts are involved from the start.”

P.P.P.s typically involve long term contracts, during which a whole host of factors could vary and so are successful when both public and private parties take on an equal load of the risk in the investment.

Isabel Marques de Sá, chief investment officer for public-private partnerships at the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation said 50 per cent of proposed P.P.P.s fail. 

“P.P.P.s require a lot of business developer skills which need to be interdisciplinary, often drawing in people with expertise in finance, economics, law, engineering, environment, accounting/taxes, etc,” she said.

“Projects move ahead slowly, first to establish sound engineering and economics, then financial and legal feasibility, and finally political will to insert private-sector participation.

“Without a government champion, P.P.P.s rarely succeed.”

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