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CDB official says governments must be more discerning in selection of PPP deals

Published:Friday | June 19, 2015 | 6:00 AMNeville Graham

Brian Samuel, coordinator of public-private partnerships (PPP) at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), is calling for more extensive use of PPP arrangements in the financing of major public infrastructure works.

He says there are significant gains to be made in embracing PPP arrangements even when it does not at first appear so.

Speaking at a conference in Montego Bay, Samuel decried the tendency of regional authorities to latch on to the first or most glittering proposal in their quest for infrastructural development, sometimes with dire consequences.

"Sometimes, the cheapest is not the best, nor it's not the first proposal that we see we that we should grab on to," the PPP coordinator said, while urging a more clinical and analytical approach in the assessment of infrastructure projects and attendant proposals.

Samuel feels that the involvement of private-sector interests may, on the face of it, involve higher-cost funds and greater focus on the bottom line but that efficiencies inherent in private-sector involvement can offset any perceived or real costs.

"Governments can always borrow at lower rates, but the question is, Are we getting value for money?" Samuel questioned. He pointed to his own involvement in both the public and private sectors to give credence to his assessment.

The CDB official was supported by Matt Bull, senior infrastructure specialist at the World Bank.

Bull told the conference that the World Bank was going beyond the facilitation of low-cost funds to offering capacity building and advice. He said this could be applied to key questions such as risk assessment and project structuring.

Multilateral representatives from the CDB, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank were giving their views at the two-day infrastructure conference at the Hyatt Ziva in Motego Bay, an event sponsored annually by CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.

"In three short years, the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Infrastructure Conference has grown into a major forum for international multilateral and regional investors, governments, and the private sector to engage with a view to building partnerships, which are ultimately aimed at driving infrastructural development in the Caribbean," CIBC FirstCaribbean CEO Rik Parkhill said at the opening on Thursday.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com