Dear Commissioner, thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen,
[PPPs – intro]
Public-private partnerships, PPPs, are of high economic significance in Europe and will become even more relevant in the future. As just mentioned by Commissioner Thyssen, indeed, they are also likely to play an increasingly important role in the delivery of the Investment Plan for Europe.
PPPs are powerful instruments. At the same time, they are also quite complex arrangements, which need to be properly handled.
They require institutional and legal frameworks that are clear and conducive to their implementation. They also require high-quality project preparation by public authorities with adequate resources.
We are here today to make the PPP process slightly less complex.
[PPPs and the EIB]
The European Investment Bank, the EU bank, has been a significant player in PPPs for many years. We are the largest lender to PPPs in Europe: over the last five years alone the Bank lent more than EUR 11 billion to PPP projects across the EU and beyond.
In its advisory capacity, the EIB also hosts the European PPP Expertise Centre, EPEC, which was established eight years ago to help the public sector deliver sound PPPs. EPEC now functions under the European Investment Advisory Hub, part of the Investment Plan for Europe.
[Need for more clarity on Eurostat PPP rules]
As Commissioner Thyssen just stated, many public and private sector stakeholders have recently called for more clarity on the Eurostat rules on PPPs.
Their concerns largely relate to the perceived complexity of the rules and difficulties in understanding how they apply to specific projects. While the rules aim to reflect economic reality, the interpretation of this concept itself can lead to much discussion.
Clearly, PPPs should be undertaken for the right reasons. They should be driven by “value for money” and efficiency, with a particular eye on affordability for the public sector and long-term fiscal responsibility.
But it is equally important to recognise that the public sector’s decision to procure projects as PPPs can be influenced by expectations as to their statistical treatment, in other words how those projects will impact on government debt and deficit figures.
Uncertainty as to how to assess the statistical treatment of PPPs can therefore create difficulties and delays in the various stages of project planning, preparation and implementation.
Today, I am proud to say that, by combining the technical expertise of Eurostat and the operational experience of EPEC and the EIB, we have successfully partnered to address the calls for action. Over the last nine months, we have worked together to produce this Guide, which I am convinced will go a long way towards meeting the expectations of the Member States and PPP stakeholders more generally.
The Guide is intended to improve understanding of how Eurostat rules should be applied to PPPs. It explains if and how the features of typical PPP contracts influence the statistical treatment of a PPP as “on” or “off” the government’s balance sheet.
It is important to underline that in contrast to existing Eurostat publications, which look at the statistical treatment of PPPs through a “statistical lens”, the Guide looks at it through a “PPP lens”. It has a “contract feel” that practitioners will be familiar with and appreciate.
Those who are interested in more technical information on the Guide are welcome to attend its presentation for practitioners that will take place at 2:30 this afternoon in the Commission’s Breydel building.
We trust that the Guide will allow stakeholders to plan projects with more confidence, using the opportunities offered by sound PPPs to mobilise private capital and expertise and ultimately generate more investment on the ground to improve the life of European citizens. In the end, that is what all of this should be about.