Public-Private Partnerships Will Never Solve America’s Infrastructure Crisis

The plan has already run into controversy, as two out of the three primary contractors hired to help manage the potential deal were found to have ties to the state’s Transportation Secretary. In St. Louis, Missouri, a local billionaire, Rex Sinquefield, is bankrolling a city government-sponsored process to study the privatization of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. This, despite the airport experiencing yet another year of passenger growth in 2018 and bringing in millions of dollars in annual revenue. It turns out Sinquefield, a private equity investor, has substantial investments in one of the three firms expected to bid on the public-private partnership if the city decides to move forward.

Yet, outside of the United States, the deals are starting to lose their luster. Conservatives in Britain recently abandoned signing new public-private partnerships altogether. They could no longer boast about “innovation,” “efficiency” and “improved service.” The facts were too powerful to cover up. Since 1992, public-private partnerships signed by the United Kingdom have yielded infrastructure valued at more than $71 billion. Yet, taxpayers will pay more than five times that amount under the terms of the contracts used to build this infrastructure.

The evidence is in. Public-private partnerships are more expensive than traditional public investment, tend towards being secretive and undemocratic, often limit public decision-making and—like all privatization schemes—outsource good, stable public jobs.

 

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