As in many developing countries, infrastructure investment needs in the Caribbean are significant across the region. A recent study conducted by the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and the World Bank recognized the growing interest in the Caribbean in using public-private partnerships (PPPs) to provide infrastructure services. It is also becoming obvious that many Caribbean governments are already turning to PPPs to meet those needs, driven by a combination of tight fiscal constraints, and growing appreciation of the role of the private sector in delivering public services.
PPPs are not new in the Caribbean, having been used to deliver new or improved roads, ports, airports, bulk water treatment facilities, and electricity generation plants. Many PPP projects have operated successfully for years, delivering high-quality infrastructure facilities. Others have faced challenges. In many cases, the complexity of the PPP development and implementation process has meant long delays in delivering projects; others resulted in questionable value or unexpected costs to governments or consumers. All PPP projects to date were implemented without overarching PPP policy frameworks which raise the question of how Caribbean governments can navigate the challenges to make the best use of PPPs to deliver improved infrastructure assets and services.
Recognizing the growing interest in the region in PPPs and the challenges many of the countries are facing in managing these PPP projects, PPIAF in partnership with the World Bank Group (WBG), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), organized a ‘Caribbean PPP Forum’ in Barbados on November 19-21, 2013 to kick start the discussion on this issue. The Forum provided an opportunity for reflection on the experience and outlook for PPPs in the region. Following the study and forum, the report titled “Caribbean Infrastructure PPP Roadmap” was produced. The report reviewed the outlook for PPPs in the region and identified a pipeline of 33 PPP project opportunities in eleven Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The report also analyzed barriers to successful development of those project opportunities and possible actions to overcome these barriers.
Based on the roadmap’s recommendations PPIAF, WBG, the CDB and IDB/MIF agreed to continue to work together with governments of the Caribbean countries on a regional approach to support development of successful PPPs. This joint effort is designed to build on partners’ strength and includes a coordinated, regional approach to ‘upstream’ PPP support. The upstream support relates to building the enabling environment for PPP activity in the region. It could also include establishing a lasting regional mechanism to support ‘downstream’ PPP work, which relates to, developing and deploying pipeline of PPP projects.
It is in this context the programmatic engagement for the Caribbean Region focusing on building the enabling environment for PPP activity in the region was launched. The proposed Program involves a two-phase approach. The first phase focuses on strengthening the Enabling Environment for PPPs while the second phase will focus on establishing a Regional PPP Unit and Project Preparation Facility.
As part of the program several activities are being developed with the objective of supporting the governments of the Caribbean region in making good use of PPPs. The main components of the first activities to be undertaken include strengthening the regional enabling environment through the development of a regional PPP ‘Toolkit’, delivering a regional PPP capacity-building program, and building a regional PPP network. Other activities will provide hands-on support to PPP programs and projects by establishing a PPP ‘helpdesk’ function and will provide coordination for potential regional PPP initiatives as well as in-country support in introducing PPP policies and programs and screening potential PPP projects through a regional PPP facility.
As the program progresses , the longer-term facility will seek to bring in additional development partners and will seek to develop a robust governance and implementation approach depending on the Caribbean governments ‘ PPP needs, and the nature and commitment of different partners.