Social services


Civil society calls to move away from PPPs grow, while World Bank doubles down on private finance-led approach

5 April 2023

Momentum has picked up on civil society’s calls to move away from much-criticised public-private partnerships (PPPs). Following the ‘Our Future is Public’ conference in Chile in December 2022, a ‘Santiago Declaration for Public Services’, endorsed by over 200 organisations, was published on 26 January, advocating for “bold collective national action for ambitious, gender-transformative and progressive fiscal and economic reforms, to massively expand financing of universal public services.”

The declaration emphasised the role of the IMF and World Bank in the stripping away of crucial public services, highlighting austerity cuts in public sector budgets and wage bills promoted by the IMF, which further dependency and unsustainable debt (see Observer Autumn 2022).

Elsewhere, a second iteration of the ‘History RePPPeated’ series was published by Belgium-based civil society Eurodad in December 2022, exploring the increasing and problematic role of the private sector in public services continually championed by the World Bank and IMF. It used seven country case studies to explore the failures of PPPs on various different levels.

Despite evidence that private finance is more expensive than government borrowing – as governments take on a ‘derisker’ role for the private sector – less efficient and creates opaque systems often exempt from regulations, the Bank appears committed to promoting this approach. This seems to be reinforced by the US nomination of former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga as the next World Bank president, which likely signals a potentially deepening of the Bank’s private sector bias (see Observer Spring 2023).