Governments should bolster links with private sector, top UN official in Asia-Pacific region urges

The top United Nations official in Asia and the Pacific is urging governments in the region to develop stronger ties with the private sector in order to deliver more robust public services and “social infrastructure.”

“Efficient economic and social infrastructure and services, and enhanced national and regional connectivity can have a major role to play in helping countries emerge from this latest [financial] crisis stronger and in a better position to promote development for all,” Noeleen Heyzer says in remarks prepared for a ministerial conference on public-private partnerships (PPP) for infrastructure development to be held Saturday in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The high-level meeting is the conclusion to a four-day event that has drawn more than 1,300 delegates – including representatives of the World Bank, MEC Holdings, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Export-Import Bank of the United States, General Electric and Intel Corporation – and nearly two dozen Ministers and Vice Ministers from Asia-Pacific countries.

An exhibition is also being held alongside the conference, and has Mitsubishi Corporation, Lovells LLP, Hitachi, Grundfos, PT. Jasa Marga, Mitsui Co. Ltd., Nokia Siemens Networks, Sumitomo Corporation, Total Indonesie, PT. Trakindo Utama, PT. Wijaya Karya, Doosan Engineering & Co., and Siemens Indonesia among the exhibitors.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia said in his opening address Thursday at the “Infrastructure Asia 2010 Conference,” infrastructure development is an important part of increasing the people’s welfare, and highlighted several significant developments in his country. He also urged the meeting to strengthen efforts to increase government and private sector partnerships among Asia-Pacific countries and to provide the best funding schemes for infrastructure development in the region.

Dr. Heyzer noted in her own remarks that new drivers of growth based on increasing intraregional trade – especially with larger markets within Asia – are now emerging strongly but there is a “desperate need” for more investment in capacity and services.
According to recent estimates, “Asia needs to invest about $750 billion per year in infrastructure from 2010 to 2020 to meet the strong growth of populations and economies,” said Dr. Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

This challenge demands a shared approach between the public and private sector, and including businesses is not only a way to finance projects, but more importantly enhance the delivery of roads, public utilities, schools and hospitals, she said.

Dr. Heyzer noted that countries of the region still faced a number of barriers hindering the progress of public-private partnerships in infrastructure development, including a lack of awareness about PPPs among government officials. There also needs to be more effort directed towards addressing capacity building in both the public and private sector, and existing experience, training institutes and universities as well as PPP units and programmes should be deeply involved in those activities, she said.

Well-defined governance structures that allow for an appropriate distribution of duties and responsibilities to all players are needed to overcome the lack of administrative and regulatory frameworks necessary to ensure an environment conducive to PPPs in many developing countries of the region, she added.

“At the policy level, partnership between government and private investor still needs to be nurtured. Promoting policy dialogue between the public and private sectors to identify, and then address, barriers can promote and strengthen public-private partnership in infrastructure development,” she said.