Debate on public-private partnership


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Debate on public-private partnership

“Intensive awareness-raising efforts are required for society to understand what public-private partnership really is, and to realise that it is good for taxpayers”.

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This is one of the conclusions of the panel debate on public-private partnership held within the context of the Servimedia Communication Forum, which involved José Carlos Guisado, CEO of the Espriu Foundation; Ángel Puente, President of the Health Circle; Eduardo Rodríguez Rovira, President of the Age and Life Foundation; Juan Díez de los Ríos, President of ASPEL, the Cleaning Business Association; Gerardo Sánchez Revenga, President of AESMIDE, the Association of Public Authority Contractor Companies; and Pilar Mairal, a Research Fellow at the Complutense Administration Science Institute of Madrid’s Complutense University.

They all agreed as to the need for educational efforts to convey to society the true reality of public-private partnership and avoid the “excessively politicised” vision currently presented.

José Carlos Guisado explained the long track record of a number of Fundación Espriu institutions in the field of public-private partnership, both through so-called public authority mutual arrangements and more recent hospital concessions in the Valencia and Madrid regions. He likewise emphasised the added value which this partnership offers both professionals and users, in particular in the case of cooperatives, emphasising their status as non-public but nonetheless social entities.

“The debate as to public-private partnership is overly ideological, with the dispute confined to whether or not to outsource services, and it is much more than that,” stated Professor Pilar Mairal. “There are strategic alliances between two or more collaborating entities, whether profit-making or non-profit, collaborative leadership to drive forward innovation… nor are they limited to the provision of goods and services, but also, for example, include the exchange of knowledge”.

In the opinion of Eduardo Rodríguez Rovira, this politicisation of the debate has generated an opinion climate which demands “a moral reset” on the part of the network of businesses with public authority contracts, taking the bold step of placing the issue of public-private partnership on the table for debate, to ensure it does not become “a taboo topic”.

For Ángel Puente, collaboration between public authorities and private initiative is necessary in order to guarantee the sustainability of the current level of public services, although to ensure the most efficient possible development, government needs to perform an analysis so as to identify the priority areas.

The panel likewise considered the Public Sector Procurement White Paper which the Ministry of Public Finance and Public Authorities has presented before the Spanish Cabinet, and which is now at the public consultation stage. José Carlos Guisado asserted in this regard that a clear definition would be required of the concept of public-private partnership in the new legal text in order to avoid pernicious interpretations and achieve a slightly greater balance in the relationship between public authorities and private enterprises in collaboration contracts.

The participants agreed, in conclusion, that calls for this public-private partnership model are no outlandish extravagance, and that it is instead a trend which is being seen throughout Europe, and which sooner or later will ultimately take root in Spain. “When we talk about public-private partnership, this is not some alien phenomenon, but a practice which has been taking place throughout Europe for years, and which has an increasing presence in the regulatory trends seen in Europe’s leading countries,” emphasised José Carlos Guisado.

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