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2018年05月08日10:11 来源:小站整理
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Paying for infrastructure

Private matters

How and when to use private capital in infrastructure projects




WHEN the Indiana Toll Road was opened in 1956, there were eight pairs of travel plazas, or rest stops, along the 156-mile (250km) stretch linking Chicago to Ohio and points eastward. As cars became faster and less thirsty, travellers had less reason to stop regularly for petrol or snacks. Three of the travel plazas closed in the 1970s. Restaurants shuttered, even if offered free rent. The remaining plazas, dwindling in number, fell into disrepair. The abiding memory some road users had of Indiana was of grubby toilets along the toll road.


Those rest-stops are at last getting a makeover. IFM, an Australian infrastructure fund, is investing $34m in the toll-road’s plazas, part of a $200m-plus upgrade. Half of the road’s length, with 57 bridges, is being resurfaced, using a treatment known as “crack-and-feed”, which lasts longer than simply patching the top. IFM, which acquired a 66-year lease on the road in a $5.8bn deal in 2015, says a private-sector operator has the right incentives to invest for the long term. Fewer tyre blowouts mean less gridlock, more road users and more revenue.


Politicians across the spectrum agree on the need to upgrade America’s crumbling roads and bridges. President Donald Trump has promised a $1trn infrastructure package. His commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is keen to involve the private sector. His vice-president, Mike Pence, was governor of Indiana when the toll-road upgrade was announced. It was not a smooth ride. The 2006 legislation to sell the road barely passed: concerns had been raised that a private owner would cut corners on maintenance and service. Then a plan to levy tolls on a new road built with the privatisation proceeds failed. The debt-heavy consortium which first acquired the Indiana toll road went bust (IFM subsequently bought it). The tale shows the promise of private-public partnership, or PPP, in infrastructure—but also the perils.

不管各自的政治立场如何,政客们都同意美国破破烂烂的道路桥梁需要升级改造。总统特朗普许诺要实施一万亿美元的基建计划。他的商务部长威尔伯·罗斯(Wilbur Ross)热切地想让私营部门参与进来。整修印第安纳收费公路的计划宣布时,副总统麦克·彭斯(Mike Pence)正是该州的州长。这项计划并非一帆风顺。准许出售该公路运营权的法规在2006年只是勉强获得通过:人们担心私营业主会在维护保养及服务上偷工减料。之后,另一项计划——向一条用私有化的收益修建而成的新公路收费——也失败了。一开始获得印第安纳收费公路运营权的财团负债累累,最终破产(而后被 IFM收购)。从这个故事可以看出,公私合作制(或称PPP)参与基础设施建设既有前景,但也存在重大风险。

Linking public-sector need with private-sector capital ought to be a perfect match. Around $2.5trn is spent worldwide each year on roads, railways, ports, sewers, telecoms systems and other infrastructure, but that is still short of the roughly $3.3trn required each year from now until 2030, according to McKinsey Global Institute, a think-tank. The average national shortfall is 0.4% of GDP (see chart). When public finances start to creak, capital spending is often the first thing to go.


Meanwhile, the pitiful yields on government bonds, plus longer lifespans, mean pension funds are desperate for fairly safe assets that offer a stable, inflation-plus return to provide the income they have promised to the retired. The steady, fee-based revenue generated by airports, toll roads, seaports and utilities seems ideal. Asset managers, such as the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund, have built up know-how in infrastructure investment. Others put money to work through specialist fund managers, such as IFM. These have raised more than $260bn over the past decade, including $47bn last year (see chart).

与此同时,由于政府债券的收益少得可怜,再加上人们寿命的延长,养老基金迫切需要相当安全的资产来产生稳定、抗通胀的回报,这样才可向退休人员支付当初承诺的养老金。机场、收费公路、海港以及公用事业所产生的基于付费的稳定收入看起来很理想。安大略省教师退休基金(Ontario Teachers Pension Fund)等资产管理机构已积累起关于基础设施投资的专门知识,其他的则通过IFM这样的专门基金管理公司进行投资。在过去十年中,这些机构已募集超过2600亿美元的资金,包括去年的470亿美元(见图表)。

PPP thus promises to deal with a host of shortages: of infrastructure; of fiscal space; of long-lived and safe securities; and of aggregate demand and jobs. If it is done correctly, the public users of infrastructure gain from the innovation and efficiency of private-sector firms. But the shortish history of PPP is littered with examples where private provision did not live up to its promises. Problems fall broadly into three categories: the behavioural barriers that turn off consumers; political interests that often turn projects sour; and the difficulty of finding financial and incentive structures that align the interests of all parties.


Start with public opposition. Anxieties about privatising essential services are present in all countries but tellingly are not always consistent. Britain seems fairly relaxed about private water companies but is cool on privately run toll roads. In contrast, private toll roads are a feature of Australian life but water privatisation remains controversial. A lot depends on what the public has become used to. It is typically more comfortable with the private ownership of telecoms and electricity assets, which is established, than with highways. Yet cable and power networks are at least as critical as roads, perhaps more so.


Whatever the logic, a touchy public makes for jumpy politicians. A change of administration can often kill a project or drain public support for it. For instance, last year legislators in North Carolina voted down a PPP toll-road project agreed in 2014. It is now under independent review. The East-West link, a PPP toll way in Melbourne, Australia, was cancelled after public opposition. Politicians’ desire for quick results is also at odds with the detailed preparation and long gestation period needed for good infrastructure projects. “Everyone wants to cut the ribbon,” says Kyle Mangini of IFM. “But the political cycle is four to five years while the infrastructure cycle is five to ten years.” Public support for private infrastructure can, however, be built up. Industry experts rave about the “Australian model”, for instance, in which proceeds from privatisations of ports and roads go towards new hospitals, schools and so on.

不管背后的逻辑如何,若公众难伺候,政客们便会提心吊胆。政府的更迭常常会扼杀一个项目或耗尽民众对项目的支持。例如,去年北卡罗莱纳州立法者否决了一个2014年通过的收费公路PPP项目。该项目如今正在接受独立审查。澳大利亚墨尔本的收费公路PPP项目“东西连线”(East-West link)也因公众反对而被取消。此外,政客渴望迅速出成果,而好的基础设施项目需要细致的准备工作以及长期的酝酿,二者间便产生了冲突。“人人都想剪彩,”IFM的凯尔·曼基尼(Kyle Mangini)说,“但一个政客的任期是四到五年,而基础设施的周期则要五到十年。”不过,还是可以想办法加强公众对私营基础设施的支持。业内专家对“澳大利亚模式”大为赞赏。在这种模式下,港口及公路私有化的收益会用于投资新的医院和学校等公共项目。

That leaves the third substantial difficulty, of getting the financial structure of PPP deals right, so that taxpayers, politicians, banks and fund managers are all content. The first need is to work out whether, and how, private capital will provide benefits that public finance cannot. Too often, the main reason for a government to bring in private capital is a bad one: to follow fiscal rules that cap public borrowing or debt. “If the starting-point is to keep a commitment off the public-sector balance-sheet, it’s hard to negotiate a good deal,” says Andy Rose of the Global Infrastructure Investor Association.

还有第三个大难题,那就是要合理制定PPP协议的融资架构,好让纳税人、政客、银行以及基金管理机构都满意。首先需要弄清的是私营资本是否会以及如何能带来公共财政难以提供的好处。政府引进私营资本的主要原因通常也是很糟糕的一个:遵循公共借贷或债务上限的财政规则。全球基础设施投资者协会(Global Infrastructure Investor Association)的安迪·罗斯(Andy Rose)表示:“如果出发点是要把一项资本投入排除在公共部门的资产负债表之外,那么就很难在谈判中达成一个很好的协议。”

The right way is to allocate risk where it can best be managed. Governments can borrow cheaply. The cost of private capital is higher. Commercial incentives often make private companies better at pushing construction and operating costs down while keeping users happy with the service. PPP typically works best when there is a stream of revenue from fees, road tolls, airport charges or utility bills. It works less well where returns need to be enhanced by a public subsidy, the terms of which are liable to change. And it works badly wherever there are risks that private capital cannot gauge or reasonably bear, such as cost overruns due to delays in regulatory clearance or to “tail risks” which the state simply cannot lay off, such as nuclear decommissioning. Politicians might see PPP as a way of pushing all risks onto private contractors. But the wise ones shun such deals.


There is a spectrum of procurement options. At one end are projects financed from taxes. For instance, last year Los Angeles voted to raise its local sales tax by 0.5% to pay for infrastructure. At the other end are private projects, such as London Gateway, a deepwater port on the Thames built by DP World, a Dubai-based port operator. In between lie privatised utilities that are subject to public regulation; or concessions where a private operator is asked to build, say, a hospital or airport terminal and then operate or manage it for a fixed period in return for the revenue it generates or an agreed fee. Crossrail, a massive project in London (pictured), is an example of another sort of hybrid, where the asset is built by the private sector, but ownership remains public. The right procurement model depends on the individual project, says Mr Rose. Ultimately, however, the taxpayer pays, whether in taxes, fares, tolls or bills.

进行基础设施建设有一系列的采购选择。最保守的选择是利用税收为基础设施提供资金。例如,去年洛杉矶通过表决,将消费税提高0.5%来支付基建费用。最激进的则是完全私营的项目,例如伦敦门户港(London Gateway)。这是迪拜的港口运营商环球港务集团(DP World)在泰晤士河建设的一个深水港。介于两种方案之间的是受到公共监管的私营公用事业,或者特许经营权。所谓特许经营权,就是让私人运营商来建造例如一所医院或航站楼,接着在固定期限内对其进行运营或管理,以此换取该设施产生的利润或之前商定的费用。伦敦的一项庞大工程“横贯地铁”(Crossrail,如图)则属于另一种性质的公私合营:工程由私营部门负责建造,但所有权仍归公共所有。罗斯说,到底哪种采购模式为好,要视具体的项目而定。不过,归根结底买单的还是纳税人,不管是以何种形式买单——交税、付车费和过路费,还是付账单。

The PPP model, though more established in Australia, Britain and Canada, is slowly gaining adherents in America. One example is the new terminal at La Guardia airport in New York. Will Mr Trump’s infrastructure plans give PPP a big push? The only specific detail that seems to be agreed on is a tax credit for equity investors. But a shortfall of private capital is not the main bottleneck, says the head of the PPP infrastructure business at a big construction firm. Rather, pots of money are chasing a paucity of projects that are ready and fit for private-sector participation.


A lot of groundwork, such as environmental studies and detailed risk-assessments, are needed before a private company will bid on a project. One reason Canada and Australia have a good record on infrastructure is that they have agencies dedicated to grooming projects. It is far harder to get projects going in America, where contractors must deal with a plethora of regulators in different departments, both federal and local. Streamlining planning and permits is painstaking work. Does Mr Trump have the patience for it?





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