Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure Renaissance Continuing in 2012

Under the leadership of Gov. Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rico continued to emerge as a leader in attracting private investment in public infrastructure in 2011, with public-private partnerships (PPPs) undertaken or underway that include a modernization of 100 K-12 schools, a $1.5 billion toll road lease and an ongoing procurement for a long-term lease of San Juan’s international airport. As I wrote in Reason Foundation’s recently released Annual Privatization Report 2011 (see Puerto Rico excerpt here):

In two short years, the administration of Governor Luis Fortuño has turned Puerto Rico into a privatization leader among its state peers. To address the territory’s chronic deficits and unsustainable debt, the administration has advanced a range of reforms that include major spending reductions, optimization of government operations and the enactment of a new law in 2009 inviting private investors to modernize or develop new infrastructure across a variety of sectors.

That law, Act No. 29, is now bearing fruit. It authorized government agencies to enter into public- private partnerships (PPPs) with private firms for the design, construction, financing, maintenance or operation of public facilities, with a set of priority projects that include toll roads, transit, energy, water/wastewater facilities, solid waste management and ports. The law also established a new Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA), a new center of excellence within the Puerto Rico Government Development Bank responsible for identifying, evaluating and selecting PPP projects and for monitoring and enforcing the terms of PPP contracts.

Despite its short life, the PPPA has built a world-class PPP program utilizing global best practices, and it has already seen some major successes advancing projects through the procurement pipeline.

Read the rest of the Annual Privatization Report 2011 article here for more on Puerto Rico’s schools, toll road and airport PPP initiatives that advanced in 2011.

I’m pleased to report that momentum has continued into 2012. Earlier this year, Puerto Rico’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Authority announced what will become the next PPP project in their infrastructure pipeline—a design-build-finance-maintain project for a new 600-bed, privately-financed juvenile correctional detention and treatment facility, a project estimated to potentially save the commonwealth over $4 million annually. This will be Puerto Rico’s first social infrastructure project in corrections, and upon completion, operations of the facility will remain in the public sector (though the private developer will continue be responsible for ongoing facility maintenance). The PPP Authority decided to move forward into procurement for this project based on the results of a feasibility and value-for-money analysis prepared for the project, available here. Statements of qualification from interested bidders were due last week. More information on this project is available here.

Also, earlier this month, the PPP Authority and the Ports Authority announced two consortia— Grupo Aerpuertos Avance (a team combining Ferrovial and Macquarie) and Aerostar Airport Holdings (a team combining Aeroportuario del Sureste and Highstar Capital)— as finalists for a long-term lease of San Juan’s international airport. Six consortia were shortlisted last September out of 12 applicants, and the winning bidder is expected to be announced next month.

For more on Puerto Rico’s robust and impressive PPP program, see:

For more of the latest in state and local government privatization, see the full Annual Privatization Report 2011.