Failure to Fly: Challenges and lessons learned from public-private partnerships in Tunisia

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are increasingly being promoted as the solution to the shortfall in financing needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With ever greater frequency, PPPs are being used to deliver economic infrastructure, such as railways, roads, airports and ports, as well as key services such as health, education, water and electricity in both the global north and the global south.

A wide range of institutions, donor governments and corporate bodies have worked to incentivise or actively promote PPPs in developed and developing countries alike, with a concerted effort at global, regional, national and sectoral levels.

Tunisia was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to implement  PPPs through “user pays” concession projects, and now PPPs are high on the national political agenda. The five-year Tunisian development plan, launched in 2016, included energy, water, and waste management and agriculture projects to be financed through PPPs.

This report – carried out by researchers based in Tunisia and Europe - looks at the recent changes in the legal framework for PPPs and zeroes in on the first major infrastructure project – or ‘megaproject’ – carried out in Tunisia – the Enfidha and Monastir airports. It analyses the implications of the recent changes in the national regulatory framework considering:

  1. How the different risks associated with PPP projects are allocated
  2. The procedures for awarding PPP contracts, including the provisions for conducting impact assessment studies
  3. The opportunities for civil society participation.

This report also examines the wider role of the World Bank Group (WBG) – and the influence that they and other IFIs have exerted in the country.