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January 19, 2018
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Still banging that drum

P3 remains high on the agenda in Washington, but this week’s global events are a reminder of how the case needs to be continually made

If anyone was unsure about the central nature of P3 to the infrastructure debate in the US at the moment, they need only take a look at the work of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

This week, it held a hearing on water infrastructure, which was entitled Approaches to enhanced project delivery and included JLL managing director Jill Jamieson, who spoke of the potential for P3 to deliver the water infrastructure that the country needs.

At the same time, of course, there is the continuing question over whether President Donald Trump will use the P3 model to deliver his $1trn plan. Once a nailed-on certainty, rumours, comments and conjecture have seen the likelihood of P3s delivering the rump of that program oscillate wildly.

Infrastructure is not the only area to suffer under this president’s apparent swings in policy direction, but it does serve to highlight the importance of the likes of Jamieson engaging in the public debate and sending a clear message on the benefits of a privately financed solution.

This is particularly important in the current climate, when there has been a huge amount of column inches written about the liquidation of construction and support services firm Carillion earlier this week.

While the impact on Canada, where Carillion has some big contracts, has been minimal (the Canadian subsidiary has insisted that it is not in liquidation and is therefore able to continue delivering services), this has not stopped critics using it as an opportunity to suggest the P3 concept should be dropped.

This has no doubt in part been a result of the near-hysterical reaction in the UK to Carillion’s collapse, where the opposition Labour Party has used the situation as a platform to promote its policy of ending private sector involvement in public services.

At such times, it can be easy to simply ignore the noise in the hope that it will go away. But to do that merely invites the assumption that the P3 critics are right. Debating the merits of P3 is something that everyone in the industry needs to be engaged in at some level or another – whether it’s on Capitol Hill or in the meeting rooms, debating chambers and local community centers where these projects are going to have their impact.

Everyone knows that the US needs to enhance its infrastructure. And everyone knows that Trump’s next move is meant to be his infrastructure plan. That is why companies like Skanska are betting on the North American market.

Right now, though, the scale, quality and value for money of Trump’s plans are still up for grabs. With people like DJ Gribbin acting as special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy, Trump should be fully apprised of the benefits that P3s can offer. Ensuring that there are voices out there countering the critics will always be an important part of the P3 equation.

To read more on how to get the message on the benefits of P3s out to the public, see ‘The Trust Battle’ in December’s Partnerships Bulletin or click here

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Still banging that drum

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P3 remains high on the agenda in Washington, but this week’s global events are a reminder of how the case needs to be continually made

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