ECONOMY

Role of private firms in public sector enhanced

The government yesterday unveiled the basic points of a draft law on public-private partnerships (PPPs), targeting the expansion of infrastructure facilities and the provision of public services. «PPPs will give a new boost to growth and will ensure the timely and proper completion of many necessary infrastructure projects, while also freeing resources for more investment and the exercise of social policy,» Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis told those gathered for an event at the Center for Political Research and Communication (KPEE). He said the mobilization of private capital will provide the country with reliable, high-quality and low-cost utilities. The bill concerns small-to-medium sized projects whose budgeted cost of construction or provision of services will not exceed 200 million euros. Larger projects will require individual legislative acts, as has already happened with Athens International Airport, the Attiki Odos highway north of Athens and the Rio-Antirio bridge over the Gulf of Corinth. The draft law provides for the establishment of a special PPP secretariat at the Economy Ministry. The secretariat must identify the types of services and projects that can be implemented through PPPs, and coordinate and support the public departments involved. It will also set up a ministerial PPP committee which will formulate government policy in the field, involving private capital. Further, it determines the public agencies – such as ministries, local government organizations and other private and public bodies – that will participate in PPPs, which will take the form of societés anonymes. For their part, private participants will have to assume a substantial part of the risks involved in the funding, availability and construction of the projects or provision of services, for which they will receive compensation either in a lump sum or in parts by their public partners or the end users of services. The draft bill also defines the minimum content of PPP contracts, with clearer and detailed description of the rights and obligations of each side. It deals with issues of financing and participation of public bodies, procedures for the collection of usage dues, licensing, environmental protection, antiquities, compulsory purchase and the involvement of public departments and enterprises. It also deals with legal issues pertaining to the contracts, such as sureties, taxes and arbitration. The bill excludes PPPs from the domains of law and order, defense, justice and penitentiary institutions.