‘Responsive-ility’ and responsibility
Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements—whether for water, reclamation, power, mass transport systems and land development projects—are never intended to glorify or only serve the interests of the parties who sign the contracts. While benefits may be drawn by the government/implementing agency (IA), the first “P,” and the private sector proponent (PSP), the second “P,” as a consequence of the partnership, the third “P,” the direct and ultimate beneficiary of any PPP project must be the fourth “P”—the people or the public good.
While “PPP for the People” (P4) for some may be over- dramatic, the purpose of this development strategy must be underscored, not dismissed, downplayed and laughed at, and certainly should not be scoffed at. We must be constantly reminded of the “why” so that we may determine not just the “how” but more so the breadth of the formal, legal and moral accountabilities of the parties.
Thus, to future-proof the PPP is to future-proof the purpose of PPP. All PPPs must directly, not just incidentally, contribute to a better quality of life for Filipinos. The people need more services, better services, affordable services and timely services. This must be explicit, defined, measurable, captured in performance indicators and auditable by the communities, the intended beneficiaries.
This vision must be consciously adopted and judiciously pursued. The public servants, the one signing for the IA and the PSP leaders are equally accountable to the public for all these. They should not shirk from this duty just out of fear of punishment or loss of revenues but more so out of dedication to the vision and the served. They must be held accountable for their actions and inactions.
The journey and the concomitant responsibility do not end with the sealing of the transaction, i.e., the signing of the contract and the issuance of the award. In the overall scheme of things, that is just chapter one of possibly 10 chapters. The transformation for the better must actually come about, not just captured in paper, study or PowerPoint presentation. While the signing of a landmark partnership pact must be hailed as a testament to an innovative and purposive collaboration, it is not the be-all and end-all.
The P4 comes alive through the timely delivery of the facility, needs being served, balanced regulation, calibrated tariff-setting, continuous learning of the stakeholders, trust-based relationship between the parties, accountable governance with the community, and the calibrated practice of a whole spectrum of leadership and management approaches.
Thus, P4s, the policy, program and projects require “responsive-ility” and responsibility. These are the twin Rs that would future-proof this people-centered strategy.
Imagine if these two are absent. There could be no project, facility not patronized, unresolved protests, jailed signatories, unilateral cancelation of agreements by successor leaders … and worse, unhappy people and dismal quality of life. The PPP contract is therefore not just a legal agreement between the parties. The P4 becomes a living covenant between the IA-PSP and the people.