Traversing PPPs is like a ‘Spartan Race’. Aroo!
HOW similar is the process involved in public-private partnerships (PPPs) with a “Spartan Race”, an obstacle-course run? What are the “obstacles” of a PPP program and project? How easy or how difficult is it to have a successful PPP and to complete an obstacle-ridden race?
Your columnist joined his first (and not the last) “Spartan Race” two weeks ago. It was the shortest distance offered, called the “Sprint”—almost 10 kilometers interspersed with 26 obstacles. Your columnist almost gave up under the soaring heat of close to 100 degrees. He was teary-eyed when he crossed the finish line and claimed his first medal. That was how difficult it was. Aroo! (in some segments,
it was Aray!)
PPPs are also not walks-in-the-park. Like the Spartan Race, PPPs have a mix of easy and difficult obstacles. And like PPPs, there is no Spartan Race with impossible hurdles. All are conquerable. However, Spartans, like PPP proponents, must be prepared and must be committed
with a vision.
- Setting the vision. The goal of any Spartan Race, in the open category, is to complete the course and live to brag about it (smiley). For the elite category, the goal is to compete and finish the course within the shortest time possible. For PPPs, the objective is far-reaching. The ultimate objective is better quality of life for the people. Success is not measured by the signing of
a PPP contract.
- Going for the “Trifecta.” Better quality of life cannot be achieved with a single PPP project. PPPs, therefore, are not just transactional. Transformation is the core of PPPs. It should be pursued as a development and change strategy. Being a true Spartan means joining more than one race. This columnist’s intermediate goal is doing a “Trifecta”—three races to complete the three-sided medal. Sustainability calls for a lifestyle change.
- Hurdling the obstacles. Going uphill under a barbwire, climbing a 6-foot wall, touching a bell after a rope climb, kicking a bell after a series of rings and horizontal bar, and carrying a bucket full of gravel are some of the obstacles in a Spartan Race. PPPs are also obstacle-ridden.There are legal (e.g., complying with nationality requirements), financial (e.g., reaching financial closure) and technical (e.g., possessing the required track record) hurdles for successful PPP transactions. Having a clear PPP policy and framework is another. Securing the award in a competitive and transparent process is a prerequisite to move on. Obtaining regulatory approvals and passing audits are considered uphill climbs. Fixing reasonable and appropriate tariffs at the right time are challenging hurdles. Addressing changes in policies midstream and successor risks are tougher obstacles. These challenges must be recognized and are conquerable.
- Getting ready. PPPs, like Spartan Races, are not spur-of-the-moment, fad-driven, let-fate-decide type of engagements. Private sector proponents, government agencies, civil-society organizations and regulators, like their Spartan counterparts, must be ready. Preparation, research, due diligence and steadfast commitment, even failures, are ingredients for success.
So, let us get ready for the next evolution. Exciting and challenging times lie ahead. Aroo! Let us Spartan up!