Harnessing public-private partnerships to bridge infrastructure gaps in South Asia

The Policy Dialogue on PPPs for Infrastructure Development in South Asia was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the National Planning Commission of Nepal, from 22 to 23 September 2015.
The Policy Dialogue on PPPs for Infrastructure Development in South Asia was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the National Planning Commission of Nepal, from 22 to 23 September 2015.

ESCAP and the National Planning Commission in Nepal build capacity for public private partnerships for infrastructure development

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) may hold the key to transforming South Asia which will need approximately USD 250 billion per year to bridge its infrastructure gaps and to achieve development goals, a United Nations- led policy dialogue has concluded in Kathmandu.

The Policy Dialogue on PPPs for Infrastructure Development in South Asia was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the National Planning Commission of Nepal, from 22 to 23 September 2015. The meeting provided a platform for sharing experiences and lessons learnt from successful PPP initiatives to enhance capacity for PPP for infrastructure development in the sub-region.

Recognizing the challenges of financing and maintaining infrastructure in the midst of shrinking budgets and limited borrowing capacity, ESCAP has been supporting countries in Asia and the Pacific in implementing measures to efficiently involve the private sector in infrastructure development. Closing the infrastructure gap in South Asia alone, including to develop the subregion’s sub-optimal power grids and road networks, will cost an estimated USD 2.5 trillion in the coming five to 10 years.

During his opening remarks, Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Head of ESCAP’s South and South-West Asia office said: “Considering the colossal financial resources at stake, it is only through mobilizing public-private partnerships that we can ever think of closing the resource gaps in South Asia, that could cost some USD 250 billion per year. PPPs imply challenging and complex processes. It is therefore very valuable to exchange experience and benefit from the lessons drawn from across the subregion,” said Dr. Kumar.

In his inaugural address, H.E. Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, Finance Minister of Nepal said: “South Asia has witnessed some of the fastest growth in commitments to new PPP projects over the past few years. We are optimistic that the private sector will play a key role in assisting the Government and development partners to ‘build back better’ after the earthquakes that devastated the country.”

Addressing the Policy Dialogue, H.E. Mr. Arjun Thapa, Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) stated: “This Policy Dialogue is particularly timely as Nepal prepares to rebuild its infrastructures that were severely damaged by the recent mega earthquakes.”

The Policy Dialogue brought together over 60 participants, representing government officials, policymakers and PPP experts from all 10 countries in South and South-West Asia, along with United Nations officials and civil society representatives.

Addressing the closing session, H.E. Mr. Bimalendra Nidhi, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport of Nepal stated: “As we are finalizing the country’s Public Private Partnership policy, it is critical to learn from PPP experiences for bridging the infrastructure gaps from other countries in the region.”

Vice-Chairperson of the National Planning Commission of Nepal, Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel emphasized that the PPP model will help enhance connectivity, promote tourism, reduce production costs in agriculture and the civil sector, and as boost employment: “Transfer of technology, whether through FDI or private investments, is only possible through partnership and greater participation of the private sector,” said Dr. Pokharel.

As a result of the meeting, around 30 key policy recommendations have been formulated that will guide the future development of PPPs in the sub-region. ESCAP and its South and South-West Asia office based in New Delhi partnered with the National Planning Commission of Nepal to convene the meeting.