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VIEW: George Monbiot on P3s

Columnist and political activist George Monbiot recently wrote about private finance initiatives (PFIs) in Great Britain, or what we know here as public-private partnerships (P3s).

Monbiot writes, “In April, the widening of four sections of the M25 (highway) was to have cost you and me £5bn. This was already a spectacular rip-off. The Campaign for Better Transport had calculated that the same amount of extra road space – if it were really needed – could have been created for £478m. But somehow, over the past four weeks, the £5bn for widening four sections of motorway has mutated into £6.2bn for widening two.”

He adds, “There’s nothing remarkable about this inflation: it appears to be an inherent property of the government’s private finance initiative schemes. The PFI allows consortiums of banks, construction and service companies to build and run our public infrastructure. Though the government maintains that this offers better value than using public money, in reality the numbers behind all PFI projects are rigged. While the government retains much of the risk, the investors keep the profits, which often run to many times the value of the schemes.”

It should be noted that here in Canada, especially with ‘stimulus’ budget money to be spent, that the Harper government’s Building Canada infrastructure plan forces governments seeking $50 million or more in federal contributions for a project to consider privatization through a costly and time-consuming P3 review.

It should also be noted that our Blue Communities Project rejects P3s to address the ‘municipal infrastructure deficit’ of $31 billion to upgrade and develop new water and wastewater infrastructure in Canada.

Monbiot’s column can be read at http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/05/26/the-real-expenses-scandal/.

You can read more about the Blue Communities Project at http://canadians.org/water/documents/WWD/2009/bcpguide-draft-web.pdf.

Thank you to British Columbia chapter activists David and Paulette Hagel for sharing Monbiot’s column with me.