Public Private Partnerships in Ireland: A Review of the Experience

23 January 2013, 3:50pm - 5:30pm

Speaker: Dr Eoin Reeves, Department of Economics, University of Limerick

Time: Tea and coffee from 3:50pm; seminar commences at 4pm

Abstract: In July 2012 the Irish government announced a stimulus plan for the beleaguered economy. The plan to spend €2.25 billion on capital projects is largely based on the use of public private partnerships (PPP) to procure new infrastructure and services. This signals a renewed wave of PPP procurement that originally commenced in 1999 and to date has resulted in in over €6 billion of investment in infrastructure and public services in sectors such as transport, health, education and water services.

It is ironic that the planned expansion of PPP procurement in Ireland is occurring at a time when PPP activity levels have fallen worldwide and the model and the PPP model in the UK is undergoing significant reform. Against this background, this paper reviews the international experience with PPP and examines the public policy objectives commonly ascribed to the PPP model. It then turns to the Irish case and traces the origins of the country's engagement with PPP and the extent of procurement under PPP to date. It assesses the extent to which these objectives have been met and concludes that there is no strong evidence to suggest that PPP has delivered better value for money for taxpayers. PPP has been used to keep capital investment 'off-balance sheet' but what is bought now must be paid for later so the net exchequer position is not necessarily improved. Finally the paper reviews some important governance issues around PPP and highlights significant shortcomings in terms of the accountability and overall legitimacy of the PPP model.

Keywords: Public Private Partnerships, Investment, Governance


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