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There is no broad international consensus on what constitutes a public-private partnership (PPP). Broadly, PPP refers to arrangements, typically medium to long term, between the public and private sectors whereby some of the services that fall under the responsibilities of the public sector are provided by the private sector, with clear agreement on shared objectives for delivery of public infrastructure and/ or public services. PPPs typically do not include service contracts or turnkey construction contracts, which are categorized as public procurement projects, or the privatization of utilities where there is a limited ongoing role for the public sector.
Learn more about the range of agreements typically classed as PPP projects in PPP Arrangements and Types of Public Private Partnership Agreements.
An increasing number of countries are enshrining a definition of PPPs in their laws, each tailoring the definition to their institutional and legal particularities.
In some jurisdictions, and in particular counties that follow the tradition of the Code Napoleon, a distinction is made between public contracts such as concessions, where the private party is providing a service directly to the public and taking end user risk, and PPPs, where the private party is delivering a service to a public party in the form of a bulk supply, such as a Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project for a water treatment plant, or the management of existing facilities (e.g. hospital facilities) against a fee.
In other countries specific sectors are carved out from the definition, particularly those sectors which are effectively regulated or where there is extensive private sector initiative, such as in Telecoms. In some countries arrangements involving more limited risk transfer such as management contracts are excluded from the definition for institutional reasons as the authorities prefer that they fall under traditional procurement processes for goods and services. For sample laws, go to PPP Legislation and Laws.