Bulgaria has experience in the use of public-private partnerships in infrastructure and transport sectors. PPPs are an economic instrument which complement public sector capacities and improve the quality of the service or product offered to citizens. But the lessons learnt from PPPs implementation so far show that there is still significant unutilized potential for cooperation among institutions, business and society. This potential lies in broadening the circle of participants and inclusion of new sectors for partnership implementation.
> Private sector will usually do what it is paid for. However it may not always do more. This is where the civil society input comes in. <
Public-private partnerships in Bulgaria are still a contradictory economic instrument. This is largely due to concerns related to transfer of risk (transfer of too large or too little risks from public to private sector or vice versa) and concerns for misuse of public funds. Furthermore, state institutions still consider PPPs primarily as an instrument for implementation of infrastructural and construction projects. The broader approach applied by the European Union or the US to the use of PPPs is rarely considered by Bulgarian institutions. However, the Law of Public-Private Partnerships now in force in Bulgaria allows for broadening the PPPs framework.
These deficits could be limited significantly through the active engagement of the civil sector. On the one hand, partnerships will include a “civil oversight” component. On the other hand, partnerships can be extended to new sectors: education, social work, etc. The huge potential of ICTs and web 2.0 instruments for communication, including new models for community organization, also work in favour of this new model of partnerships.
What’s in it for the state and society?
Partnerships between institutions-business-society in the European Union will be the cornerstone in the development of a new public sector model.
> The quantifiable benefits of the new model of PPPs equal over 50 billion EUR in the EU by 2020. <
The non-financial benefits are also significant. Increased quality of public services. Increased public trust in government. This is one of the key recommendations of the Expert group on innovations in the public sector, convened by the European Commission. A new model of service delivery, based on collaboration between the three sectors – public, private and civic.
These benefits are directly related to the priorities set by the governmental Programme for Stable Development of the Republic of Bulgaria 2014-2018, and particularly: policies for transparency (priority 18.2), the various mechanisms for public participation in decision-making and project development that enhances the public, business and investment climate.
Institutions and business in Bulgaria already have substantial experience and lessons learnt from public-private partnerships. These lessons demonstrate that PPPs are:
- an alternative model for implementing public services.
But they are also
- not simply a financial model.
- not privatization.
- not a magic wand.
Imagine combining the potential of the three sectors. This is a chance for service provision, based increasingly on social entrepreneurship and collaborations. And partnership development that conveys better social and economic results.
Public-private partnerships New model of partnerships
>An example: Childcare as a social service in Bulgaria <
Childcare is currently offered in Bulgaria by municipal or private kindergartens and by parent cooperatives – each model having its strong and weak aspects. But imagine the same service, offered following universal and robust state standards, the financial and innovative potential of a private entrepreneur and the ownership and oversight of a civic association of parents.
In an international perspective, there are numerous examples of such a new approach to public partnerships. For instance the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., a company based in Vermont and Save the Children, an international civil society organization joined forces on a project to increase the income and food security for families of workers on coffee farms. By helping families to diversify their crops, improve storage techniques, and bring crops to market, they can better withstand periods of food scarcity during the months between coffee harvests. There is also an ambitious health compotent with local civil society partners, to boost maternal and child health and nutrition for the same coffee-growing communities. It is a win-win partnership for both the business and the communities.
Bulgaria already develops successful multi-actor partnerships in the social services and education sectors, but they are the result of sporadic and non-systemic efforts of businesses or active civil society associations, mostly locally. One example is the “Teach for Bulgaria” non-profit organization which funds the work of school teachers in public schools or “Samaritans” Association which supplies a large range of social services in close collaboration with the municipality of Stara Zagora. These partnerships demonstrate the enormous potential in the collaborative work of the state, business and civil society sectors. This model needs to be enhanced, systematized and enlarged in order to provide greater economic and social added value.
How we aim to achieve this?
We support the development of a new model of public-private-civil partnerships through the following activities:
(1) Analysis of the potential for public-private-civic partnerships implementation in Bulgaria, including:
- assessment of the possibilities for implementation by economic sectors;
- existing good practices to date;
- analysis of the administrative capacity for implementing, but also for encouraging public-private-civic partnerships.
(2) Development of a web-based data base of potential partners in the three sectors (public, private, social), searchable by economic sector / scope of financing / experience / country region, etc.
(3) Organization of events and working meetings between institutions, business and civil society organizations as potential partners in the new model of public-private-civic partnerships.