Organised jointly by the embassies of France and the UK, the French and British chambers of commerce and Poland’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, the conference focused on practical examples, case-studies and lessons learned from long experience in France and the UK of delivering public infrastructure using private-sector capital and know-how.
After opening speeches by Her Majesty’s Ambassador Robin Barnett, and the French Ambassador to Poland, Pierre Buhler, the participants heard from Wadim Kurpias, a partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, one of Poland’s most experienced lawyers in PPP projects. The conference was aimed mainly at representatives of Poland’s public sector with an interest in using PPP to build and operate infrastructure, with a full-house of over 120 in the audience.
The UK has 22 years of experience with PPPs, with over 1,000 projects completed, while France has been using the PPP formula for 10 years to deliver over 500 projects.
Rather than subjecting the participants to presentations, the conference took the form of two interactive panel discussions. The first panel, moderated by the British Polish Chamber of Commerce’s chief advisor, Michael Dembinski, looked at why a public sector institution should consider using the PPP model in the first place, especially when there is access to EU funds. Robert Kałuża, director of the Department of PPP Project Support at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, outlined the ministry’ work in promoting the PPP model to local authorities throughout Poland. Four projects currently under way in Poland were discussed. Jean-Michel Kaleta from SITA, talked about the waste-incineration plant project in Poznań, which is interesting in that it blends EU funds into a PPP project. Raphael de Bodman from Saur, outlined the municipal sewage treatment works in Konstancin-Jeziorna. Another PPP project which has attracted much attention in Poland is the student halls of residence at the Jagiellonian University medical school; it was described by Agnieszka Gajewska from InfraLinx Capital, and Gilles Leonard from Bouygues Karmar. The Żywiec hospital PPP project, one that is being watched closely by local authorities interested in the model, was discussed by Nasser Massoud from InterHealth Canada, and the chief officer of the Żywiec district.
One point that came from the panel was the need for Poland to create one central government body for the promotion of PPP to the public sector; currently the Ministry of the Economy is vying with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development for this role. In France, the Mission d’Appui aux Partenariats Public-Privé, or Partnerschaften Deutschland, or InfrastructureUK, have a clear role in disseminating PPP best practice.
After a networking coffee break, the second panel, moderated by Agnieszka Ferek from Baker & McKenzie, who chairs the Franco-Polish Chamber of Commerce’s PPP committee considered two French and one UK PPP projects in detail. Francois Montarras, vice-chancellor of the University of Paris VII, talked about the project to create new campus buildings, while Didier-Benoit Delage from EDF/DK and Thierry Collin from the Department of la Manche gave the private and public sector’s perspective on the local authority’s project to increase energy efficiency. Mariusz Konopka from Mott MacDonald covered the UK’s school building project, which had delivered many hundreds of schools, and also discussed the lessons learned by the UK Government from its review of the first 20 years of operating PPP projects.
The aim of the second panel was to show what factors were essential to ensure satisfactory cooperation between public and private partners during the project’s lifecycle.
Wadim Kurpias summed up the meeting, which was followed by a networking lunch and then specific business-to-business – and business-to-government – meetings.
The high level of interest from among Poland’s public sector suggests that there is a need for follow-up meetings in this formula, to show practical examples of PPP in action, through the project planning, financing, construction and operational phases.