public-private partnerships

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Contrast with commons-public partnerships.

PPPs are typically vehicles for developing infrastructure for water supply or sewage management, or building roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, prisons, or public facilities such as swimming pools and playing fields.

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These are often good-faith attempts to address pressing social problems through contract-based collaborations between businesses and government.

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PPPs are based on fundamentally incompatible objectives — the state’s obligation to protect the public good and private businesses’ desire to maximize profits. In practice, many public-private collaborations function less as partnerships than as disguised giveaways.

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PPP can let a company acquire equity ownership of public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and public facilities for a long period — fifteen, thirty, even ninety-nine years — and then manage them as a private market asset.

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The state and the corporate sector both pretend that PPPs are a healthy, wholesome arrangement that benefits everyone and solves the lack of public funds. In truth, a great many PPPs amount to a marketization of the public sector that extracts more money from citizens, surrenders taxpayer assets to businesses, and neutralizes public accountability and control.

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