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PPPs, P3s, PFIs – there are a whole number of terms being used to describe cooperation agreements between the public and private sectors. And it’s no different in Germany where the most common abbreviations found are ÖPP, PPP and ÖPD. But what do these different abbreviations mean? How are they connected to one another? And what have they got to do with the provision of essential public services? All three combinations of letters in Germany – ÖPP, PPP and ÖPD – involve collaboration work between the public and private sectors. ‘Öffentlich-Private Partnerschaft’ (ÖPP) is the German equivalent of the English term ‘public private partnership’ (PPP). Both, therefore, are an umbrella term covering all forms of association or cooperation between public authorities and private businesses – i.e. from an operator model all the way through to a joint venture.
The term ‘public private partnership’ (PPP) covers practically all types of collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Germany also has the additional term ÖPD (Öffentlich-Private Daseinsvorsorge). This describes a specific type of PPP, namely cooperation models that cover tasks dealing with essential public assets and services. This primarily involves PPP projects set up as a service provision model, an operator model or as a public-private joint venture. If public private partnerships are formed to secure and guarantee the provision of essential public services, then they have three primary objectives:
The main criteria here are providing stability and minimising risks as well as scrupulously adhering to all public quality and performance parameters, such as pre-defined water qualities or prescribed internet transmission speeds.
A typical example here is ensuring that the prices charged are socially acceptable while also taking business requirements into account.
The most important factor here is making sure that essential public services are not only able to be provided now but in the future as well. This, therefore, covers issues such as sustainability, minimum resource consumption and aspiring to achieve the most environmentally sound business possible.
The German word ‘Daseinsvorsorge’ not only involves ensuring that vital services and goods are provided but also that citizens have universal and non-discriminatory access to them. It covers the fundamental requirements of the population and all corresponding qualitative and quantitative standards. These essential public services are very wide ranging indeed – from tasks in the areas of culture, education and emergency services all the way through to transport, public safety and water supply.
The state is the body that is responsible for organising essential public services and ensuring they are provided but not for actually delivering them.
It is the government that is responsible for ensuring that these public services are provided and that the infrastructure needed to do this is set up and maintained. The government’s competence here though should only be seen as a responsibility. It does not mean that the state itself must provide the services. In Germany, the responsibility of making sure essential public services are delivered to citizens is often passed on to local authorities.