Thoughtless projects

Oceane Blavot & Rodolfo Bejarano & Mae Buenaventura
Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023

One of the most damaging initiatives that has deeply affected the delivery of public services and infrastructure projects on all continents is the rise of public-private partnerships, or PPPs.

They have long been promoted by institutions such as the World Bank as a silver bullet to close the so-called gap to finance investments in services and infrastructure. The premise is that the private sector can deliver these services more efficiently and to a higher standard than the public sector, despite extensive evidence to the contrary.

We lay the pitfalls of PPPs bare in our new report History RePPPeated II: Why public-private partnerships are not the solution – the second in a series of investigations documenting the impacts of PPPs across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Launched at the Santiago conference with some of the partners responsible for investigating and authoring the case studies, the report not only highlights negative impacts of PPPs, but sets out recommendations for how to better finance infrastructure and public services in the face of false solutions that have been proposed given the context of the current polycrisis.

These narratives wholly reflect red flags that are raised in the Santiago Declaration.

Through these investigations, we discovered failures on multiple levels in PPPs covering infrastructure such as roads and water supplies, as well as vital public services like healthcare and education.

From escalating costs for the stretched public sector to environmental and social impacts, we found time and again that communities had been ignored, displaced, and had their basic rights violated by thoughtless projects designed and implemented in the pursuit of profit.

A prime example is that of the the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) in Nepal. First announced nearly a quarter of a century ago, the project’s aim was to deliver clean, reliable and affordable water to 1.5 million people in Kathmandu.

And yet, 24 years later, residents are still waiting, while communities at the Melamchi water source are facing scarcity of water and eroded livelihoods.

Instead of safe, clean drinking water – an internationally recognised human right – they have witnessed an extraordinary revolving door of

private companies and institutional funders,

including the World Bank, who have each failed to deliver.

To add to the MWSP’s colossal failure, 80 hectares of farmland have been lost to the project, a heavy blow to local residents, and up to 80 households have been forcibly displaced due to construction.Who owns and controls our resources and public services became even more vitally important with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.

Excerpted: ‘Down With Public-Private Partnerships. Up With a Future That Is Public’. Courtesy: