A good chance

The concept of Public-Private Partnership (PPP or P3) has been a vogue word in Nepal in recent years among politicians, economic planners, business leaders and NGO-operators. It has gathered greater force since the CPN-Maoist came to head a coalition government recently, as P3 forms a major part of the development paradigm of the Maoists. P3 has been used loosely as well as in a more restricted sense. A two-day national symposium on Public-Private Partnership 2008 concluded in the capital yesterday. Prime Minister Prachanda, in his inaugural address, said that in Nepal, PPP would move forward according to its own ‘needs and values’, giving the assurance that the government would create an appropriate environment for such partnership. Hardly anybody in today’s world harbours the illusion that government efforts alone will generate development. Nor do many entertain illusions at the other end of the spectrum that laissez-faire alone will unleash the engines of development, let alone eliminating poverty and gross economic inequalities, all the more so in the midst of the current global financial crisis.

The concept of mixed economy has been in practice in most countries for long, and PPP may well add a dimension to it. In a mixed economy, private entrepreneurs and government may work separately. Some countries may have given more importance to one than to the other. But PPP also envisages joint projects. Government wants development and has national social and economic goals; private entrepreneurs want profit. A successful practice of PPP will be a balanced fusion of the two. In fact, PPP has been around the world in one form or another for years. This partnership can assume various forms. The Prime Minister called the symposium itself as a good example of PPP, because it had been organised by the government and the private sector, with UNDP funding. Prachanda stressed centralised P3 for mega projects and small P3 models at the local level.

In Nepal, many development fads and fashions have come and gone, depending on the predilections of foreign donors. This P3 is no exception. But following fads has not raised Nepal high on the scale of development. That means that P3 in itself cannot provide a cure-all for Nepal’s developmental ills. Determination, sincerity and seriousness are required, particularly in those who make plans, policies and decisions. If not informed by transparency, accountability and zero tolerance for corruption, even P3 can be breeding grounds for various evils. Here, too, the unholy alliance between politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen that have bled the country white so far might be at work again. However, the new coalition government led by a new party that has come through the fire of its decade-long People’s War has displayed a new enthusiasm for departing from the wrong practices of the past, and it has set ambitious goals, for instance, double-digit economic growth and generation of 10,000 MW hydro-electricity in ten years. It certainly deserves a probation period of a fairly long duration; others have got many years or decades before. It will do credit both to the country and to the CPN-Maoist, as well as its coalition partners, if PPP can be turned into a success.