Prudent review of PPP projects
The presidential election in mid-2016 and the legal constraints this will impose on government procurement processes relating to public infrastructure—compounded by the “backlog” in its public-private partnership program—have created a dilemma for implementors. A “knee-jerk” reaction, well-intentioned as it may appear, would be to further accelerate the program with last-minute “insertions.”
A “report card,” if one were commissioned at this point, engaging the services of an independent, fully-competent infrastructure consultancy, would predictably prove commendatory for P-Noy’s approach to PPP implementation.
But issues, serious issues, will still be raised, and these will range from the government agency entrusted with project implementation, the adequacy or competence of its staff and its corps of consultants; the procurement of contract; the way the implementation is being done; and project liquidation and delivery to government and the latter’s acceptance thereof. And issues will continue to be raised through decades of project operation.
Concerns about the adequacy of government agency will be heightened by the fact that the bulk of the PPP projects are transport-related, and transport is at present the most critical to the country’s progress. Unfortunately, the performance of the Department of Transportation and Communications, the lead agency for transport projects, has not really been inspiring. The concerns have been reinforced by assessments of international observers, one of which is HSBC.
The national government’s track record relating to major infrastructure projects is totally negative. Naia Terminal 3, the NorthRail, and the privatization of Metro Manila’s water services—name it, the list goes simply endless.
Pessimistic prognosis of the PPP program therefore should not be ignored; the extreme consequences of a PPP failure to the country is a matter of great concern.
The relatively successful pioneering thrusts of the Marcos presidency into major infrastructure—e.g., toll roads, LRT-1, Pantabangan Dam, Magat Dam, Cebu-Mactan and San Juanico Bridges—had at least the advantages of being spearheaded by technocrats of the caliber of Alfredo Juinio, Jose Dans Jr., Antonio Locsin and others, and initiated amid modest expectations.
A review of the PPP program would be prudent and the time spent for such effort would be well-justified and, most likely, could even result in time gained resulting from more efficiently executed schedules and objectives.
—ALFREDO V. ASUNCION, [email protected]
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