India must give infrastructure development the highest national priority, bringing together the Central and State governments, along with public and private players, in a common endeavour, as I have reiterated often in this column.
World-class infrastructure is required to provide the trajectory to rapid, consistent growth and, for India to become a leading economic power. For this to happen, a single-minded sense of purpose and daring political leadership dedicated to achieving the goal are a must
In this context, Europe has brought together the advantages of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in a unique cooperation between the public and private sectors involving extensive relationships, joint risk-taking and major investment.
Many of these projects involve the construction of water and municipal sanitation systems, hospitals, roads, bridges, tunnels, railways and marinas.
A shared goal
Public and private sector in Europe no longer view themselves as conflicting parties but, on the contrary, participate and assume responsibility, share risks and simultaneously develop services in the best interests of the citizens.
There are clear and common rules within the EU that facilitate the free movement of goods, services and even bidding for PPP projects. EU and the individual member States also have common rules that ensure transparency and counteract corruption.
After all, transparency concerning how public affairs are managed is a cornerstone of democracy.
Between 2007 and 2011, the European Union has invested around €500 billion in infrastructure projects, within Europe.
In some countries, these investments account for around 4 to 5 per cent of GDP. PPP-initiated projects are the largest investment programmes in Europe since the Second World War. Therefore there are strong expectations that these projects will create an economic boost that will stimulate growth — even during the current economic turmoil.
Culture of efficiency
Europe’s PPPs not only cover infrastructure but also provide for a wide range of sectors, such as waste management, waste-recycling, communications, water distribution and even research, development, innovation and higher education.
These projects cover investment needs even while seeking to increase the quality and efficiency of public services.
The most obvious challenge for successful PPPs is to identify the circumstances under which they are superior to traditional public procurement of infrastructure and social investment.
The European experience shows that PPPs do bring into projects a business culture oriented towards efficiency, quality and economic viability in a manner that benefits society as a whole.
(The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany.)