Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Decentralization spurs public-private partnerships

Local authorities are yet to demonstrate that their jurisdictions have appealing value proportions to businesses, the case of which will determine their success in luring profit making activities that can support community infrastructural development projects and as a result deliver quality public services. This initiative is designed to operate within the public-private partnership (PPP) framework, which by its makeup will enable businesses and local authorities to share resources, risk and revenue for the common goal of uplifting the livelihoods of communities.

Local authorities are cognisant of the fact that financing will play an important role in the construction of public infrastructure. Earlier in January, the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) struck a partnership with Barclays Botswana which sought to capacitate local authorities on generating and managing their own finances and resources. This demonstrated their intentions of ensuring that the cost of debt does not come in the way of delivering public services.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Barclays Africa Head of Public Sector, Zienzi Musamirapamwe urged local authorities to create an inviting and enabling environment for businesses to operate in so that the cost of providing public services can be borne by the accrued tax revenue. She added that creating businesses will therefore lead to the expansion of the tax base, which guarantees that services will be paid for.

Musamirapamwe said it is the responsibility of local authorities to monitor the progress of public projects, a task that will demand for them to bring themselves up to speed with understanding how PPP agreements work to ensure effective project review and delivery. PPP agreements involve the process of negotiation, which according to Musamirapamwe will challenge local authorities to fully understand both the financial and overall impact of what is being done so as to negotiate successfully.

One could say that local authorities have taken a bold step given that the PPP policy framework in Botswana carries a history of existence, but without a proven track record of projects that successfully delivered public services. Rightly put, the attempt to deliver services through public private partnerships could be considered negligible. The PPP policy and implementation framework was approved in 2009 but the idea had been introduced in earlier years. Government continues to build and run public service delivery projects despite the fact that the national budget was badly hit by the 2008/2009 economic meltdown.

To this day, there are a considerable number of PPP projects that are pending. The motive of local authorities to take advantage of PPPs was inspired by decentralisation and the wearing down of powers and decision making from central government, an action that will see local authorities gaining absolute influence and control of resources within their specific jurisdictions. With the legal impediments lifted off, PPPs stand as an opportunity to transform rural communities into thriving economic hubs, just as it has been done in major cities and towns.

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