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Optimising government service delivery: the potential of public private partnerships

11 February 2014


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An estimated 25 percent of the Middle East’s unemployed youth could benefit from Public-Private Partnerships, or PPP, which have helped several countries in the region become economic powerhouses.

At Tuesday’s continuation of the three-day UAE Government Summit 2014, officials from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and a leading entrepreneur in the region, all agreed that the private sector will play a major role in further developing Middle East and to make its unemployed youth become productive.

The impact of the economic crisis pushed governments globally to reduce their public expenditures on infrastructure. Public-private partnerships have allowed governments to access new levels of innovation and efficiency in the level of service provision. The session showcased some of the Arab world’s most successful public–private partnerships, and the potential impact that the strategic state can bring to bear.

HE Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality, said Dubai is already actively engaging the private sector in many of its public and cause-oriented projects. He cited as example the garbage collection service in the global city of Dubai, which was given to an unnamed private contractor for a period of five years.

“The private sector should be engaged,” he said but stressed that the public sector and ultimately, the residents, should benefit from such deals. “We don’t want just the private sector to win. We (public sector) should also win,” he added.

HE Ibrahim, Director-General of Saudi Arabia’s Human Resources Development Fund, said: Saudi Arabia, regarded in the region as an embodiment of a successful public-private partnership economy, is helping Gulf Cooperation Council member countries – Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE – get the best out of the private sector.

While there is no magic recipe to ensure success for such partnership, HE Ibrahim said there are strategies that will enable both parties to reach their goals. He noted that sustainability of projects is a major consideration, as well as benefits to the end users – the public.

With continued growth among certain economies in the region, HE Ibrahim said now is the time for the private sector to show that “it is mature and ready to render these services.”
Fadi Ghandour, Founder and Vice-Chairman of Aramex, a global transportation and logistics services company, who has long been advocating for more jobs for the region’s youth, said the public sector must show sincerity to engage the private sector in addressing issues about unemployment and provide opportunities to people seeking help in entrepreneurial projects.

He said societal and economic issues run parallel and the private sector can help address problems about it with the government’s commitment to join them.

“The issue of sustainability is a must,” said Ghandour who also founded Ruwwad, a non-profit community empowerment organisation that helps disadvantaged communities overcome marginalisation through youth activism, civic engagement and education.