Councillors Focus on Public Private Partnerships

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By Engel Nawatiseb WINDHOEK Public Private Partnership (PPP) mechanisms have become the clear choice for local governments worldwide to improve service delivery, reduce costs, attract investment and increase accountability and in view thereof, it is believed that local authorities should deliver services to the satisfaction of all communities. Thandiwe Mlobane, a consultant from Zimbabwe made the remarks yesterday when she addressed mayors and councillors on the positive impact of PPP and civic participation for sustainable urban service delivery during a one-week course that started in Windhoek on Monday. She stressed that the rapidly growing demands on local authorities to build new infrastructure, rehabilitate and upgrade existing ones and to replace aging assets lead councils to seek innovative solutions to the financing of the next generation of new infrastructure. “Joint ventures with the private sector, developer contributions, public-private partnerships and a number of novel financing techniques are all being explored with the goal of building high quality public assets and improve service delivery.” It is essential, she stated, to analyze the financial capacity of sub-national governments as well as their comparative levels of worthiness, their perception of capital markets and private sector participation in infrastructure financing and delivery. She advised mayors that private sector participation could be by way of raising bonds from the market, bills, concessions, syndicate loans and lease hire amongst many others. Important to note, stressed Mlobane, is the need to involve the community at project identification and selection stages through to the implementation where they can provide the required labour. She stated that local authorities have the ability to turn around the social and economic fortunes of the areas under their jurisdiction if they understand and practice essential techniques, strategies and ingredients for successful PPPs. Often, key municipal services such as water, wastewater treatment and solid waste collection are delivered ineffectively or not at all despite the fact that cities and towns are vital concentrations of economic activity and engines of social and economic growth. Notably, councils do not have sufficient accumulated funds to finance infrastructure that is needed in order to extend existing services or to install new ones that are required. Therefore without a financial base they (councils) end up lacking the technical and institutional capacity to provide infrastructure and essential services that are necessary to develop economies. Mlobane noted that the benefits of investing in municipal infrastructure cannot be over-emphasized because it improves the immediate environment and reduces over-crowding and congestion while also promoting the growth of small and medium businesses, investment and employment and income opportunities. Other benefits are related to the development of competitive and attractive cities and towns, attracting and retaining residents and tourists as well as greater opportunities for regional cooperation and economic exchange. She stressed that a positive business environment is a major factor in competition for foreign and private investment in any local authority and should be supported by the preparation of either an economic development pro-gramme, a capital improvement budget or a turnaround strategic plan. Mlobane added that investment is one of the major preconditions of long-term urban development and could be successfully sourced based on the evidence of growth in economic activity, transparency and free flow, cost-benefit sharing and that poor and weaker sections of society are not compromised due to lack of proper consultation. According to her, the private sector could be involved in financing capital projects by introducing skills and knowledge, insulating operations from political interventions, improving on efficiency and service delivery as well as making projects more responsive to consumer needs and preferences. The Deputy Mayor of the City of Windhoek, Ellaine Trepper said local authorities should conduct a community livelihood analysis to determine the workforce of each community, income and expenditure and total income per household and community income in their areas. This would provide statistics on the vulnerability of groups towards determining their basic needs such as water, food, clothing, shelter, health care, and the percentages of children and unemployed community members amongst other aspects. “Governments should provide incentives that are rewarding to investors such as peace and stability in the country and a strong and stable currency. “Our country is meeting those requirements, unlike in some African countries were currencies are always at risk.”