The Ireland 2040 national framework plan is aimed at providing a long term and place based aspect to public policy and investments in areas such as housing, jobs, transport, education, health, environment, energy and communications. The census 2016 figures show the stark need for investment in public infrastructure to serve areas of population growth and to properly connect the regional urban centres. This should feed into the National Planning Framework.
With this obvious need for infrastructure, it is likely that we will see more public/private partnership projects (“PPPs”) in the coming years. Major PPPs have been few and far between in the last 10 years and many of them were notorious for going over budget. Now is a good time to briefly review how to make PPPs successful.
New PPPs are evolving to take more extensive and complicated forms of shared risk and responsibility. Incentivising tax breaks for PPPs could be a good method to engage developers in being involved in greater public roles. This could be of great benefit in re-development and re-generation type projects especially in the areas of social and affordable housing and in upgrading existing travel and water networks.
PPPs are complex projects which place demand on staff resources and often require specialised skill sets which may be in short supply in Ireland due to emigration. The public side of the partnership could help streamline their internal decision making processes to assist with the inevitable delays that are associated with PPPs. This is especially true in the selection and tendering processes. A transparent decision making process will assist developers when tendering. Guidelines as to how decisions are made as to how much risk is transferred to the private sector would also inform developers decisions to tender and help resolve tensions at a later stage in the project. That said risks and rewards should be shared fairly and the private side needs to understand the goals of the public side which has political accountability to be mindful of as well as budgeting and risk aversion. So essentially the secret sauce is teamwork and good communication! How hard can it be?
The new Census figures released by the CSO today show that investment in public infrastructure is now more important than ever, as our population continues to increase. Ireland’s population stood at 4.76 million in 2016 an increase of 3.8 per cent since 2011.