Carnegie Mellon University in Australia and the Center for Public-Private Partnerships of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Monday, 22 January, at the Philippines’ National Economic Development Authority headquarters.
Prof Emil P. Bolongaita, Head of CMU-A and Ferdinand A. Pecson, Executive Director of the PPP Center, signed the MOU on behalf of their respective organisations. The Minister for Economic Planning of the Philippines, the Hon Ernesto Pernia, and H.E. Ambassador Gorely, Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines, signed as the official witnesses.
Minister Pernia said that “PPPs are an essential part of the Duterte Administration's Build Build Build Program and highly knowledgeable senior technical staff are invaluable in ensuring successful implementation of PPPs and the BBB.” Indeed, the Philippines is at a critical stage in attracting private sector investment into its public infrastructure. The quality of its infrastructure has been ranked by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in a 2017 report at 16 out of 24 counties in the region. Plainly, private sector investments is required yet the ADB found that such investment in “Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam, Central Asia and the Pacific together account for only 2% of the region’s PPP”. Furthermore, the ratio of PPP investment to GDP is less than 0.5%.
For her part, Ambassador Gorely said that “it is wonderful to see this agreement because it brings two important elements of Australia’s strengths, education and infrastructure.” Australian governments have been international leaders in attracting private investment for public infrastructure such as toll roads, hospitals, public transport and prisons. More than US$40 billion has been invested in more than 100 projects. The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Australia as the best country for PPPs in the Asia Pacific Region. That is not to say that everything has gone smoothly for Australia, as there have been challenges along the way. However, the lessons have been learnt and the use of public private partnerships is now mature in Australia.
For his part, Executive Director Pecson said that “the partnership with CMU-A is consistent with the PPP Center’s mandate to facilitate the implementation of the Philippine PPP Program as it provides PPPC staff with a deeper knowledge of global best practices on PPPs, which they could then apply to projects they are supporting.”
In his remarks, Prof Bolongaita said that “this agreement between the Philippines’ PPP Center and CMU-A presents an important opportunity for relevant officials and staff of the Philippine government to learn in-depth from the Australian experience, and for Australia to contribute to the Philippines’ bold development agenda that will be economically transformative for the country.”
Prof Bolongaita said that CMU-A is responding to the renewed interest in PPP design and delivery of infrastructure in Asia and other parts of the world as governments seek to address infrastructure gaps. Building in great part on the Australian experience, the university has developed a curriculum for its Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management with specialized courses with PPPs and topics closely linked to their management such as anti-corruption management. The course draws heavily on both practitioner experience and the wealth of research literature created on Australia PPPs as well as PPP practice more generally.