1.29.2015

Public-Private Partnership: Turbulent Takeoff

By LUKONG Pius, Cameroon Tribune
In a bid to pull the private sector into the country’s development chain, government proposed a bill which was incidentally voted into law by the National Assembly enabling a symbiotic
action from both the public and private sectors in the whole gamut of project execution. Hypothetically, the programme went operational in 2009 under the guidance of the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development as well as the Support Council
for the Execution of Partnership Contracts better known by its French abbreviation, CARPA. Practically, it effectively took off, unfortunately lazily, four years after when in 2013; nine projects were streamlined for execution. From every indication, none of these projects finally saw the light of day.
The whole scenario continued in 2014 when 14 projects were identified for execution and nothing was done as at the end of the year. This state of affairs has kept no one indifferent. It is for this reason, that government which represents the public sector and is the initiator of the programme, proposed to redefine strategy beginning with the sensitisation of project owners to let them further understand the need to work hand in glove with the private sector in the execution of the country’s project. As to whether or not the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, CARPA and other public structures will succeed in putting the programme on fast track is another question. But the big worry remains. Why should such a lofty programme that is capable of changing the economic face of the nation met with such unenthusiastic attitude?
Even though the President of CARPA denies the lazy takeoff of the programme, the signs are clear for anyone to see. The Head of State in one of his speeches decried the inertia that has gripped the administration. The execution of the public-private partnership programme is a good example. In effect, the contours of the PPP are clear. It is the public sector that proposes projects to the private sector for execution. It all begins with the project master which could be a ministry, a council or any state owned institution. Once the project has been identified, it is sent to CARPA for assess its eligibility. According to the legal expert in CARPA, all projects are not obligatorily eligible for PPP. The question now is, which ones are eligible? On what bases are some projects declare fit for PPP? The answer according to the legal expert is in the financial and technical potentiality for the public contract.

Complexities and Hurdles

That notwithstanding, it is important to underscore the complexity that surrounds the Cameroon public contract system which alone is capable of withholding streamlined projects beyond their expected life spans. The second reason why this lofty idea has not been able to effectively takeoff is the low technical and financial capacity of local companies. In effect, projects that are placed in the PPP pipeline are usually those that the public sector is unable to handle financially, technically or both. It is for this reason that the few projects highlighted for PPP by CARPA are likely to be grabbed by foreign companies that have the financial and technical means. These include the Limbe-Douala-Edea-Yaounde petroleum pipeline, the multifunctional quarry in Limbe, the National Insurance building in Douala and the maintenance of the Hydrocarbons Terminal at the Kribi Deep Seaport.
This whole package of complexity does not exclude the doubtful business climate which hypothetically rekindles lots of hope but practically continues to nurse confusion in the minds of business people. Business people continue to decry the tax system which according to them remains unfriendly.>>>

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