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Soft budgets and Renegotiations in Public-Private Partnerships

  • Eduardo Engel
  • Ronald Fischer
  • Alexander Galetovic


Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are increasingly used to provide infrastructure services. Even though PPPs have the potential to increase efficiency and improve resource allocation, contract renegotiations have been pervasive. We show that existing accounting standards allow governments to renegotiate PPP contracts and elude spending limits. Our model of renegotiations leads to observable predictions: (i) in a competitive market, firms lowball their offers, expecting to break even through renegotiation, (ii) renegotiations compensate lowballing and pay for additional expenditure, (iii) governments use renegotiation to increase spending and shift the burden of payments to future administrations, and (iv) there are significant renegotiations in the early stages of the contract, e.g. during construction. We use data on Chilean renegotiations of PPP contracts to examine these predictions and find that the evidence is consistent with the predictions of our model. Finally, we show that if PPP investments are counted as current government spending, the incentives to renegotiate contracts to increase spending disappear. JEL classification: H21, L51, L91.

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Paper provided by Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile in its series Documentos de Trabajo with number 265.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:edj:ceauch:265
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  1. J. Luis Guasch & Jean-Jacques Laffont & Stephane Straub, 2005. "Concessions of Infrastructure in Latin America: Government-led Renegotiation," ESE Discussion Papers 132, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  2. Bennett, John & Iossa, Elisabetta, 2006. "Building and managing facilities for public services," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 2143-2160, November.
  3. Eduardo Engel & Ronald Fischer & Alexander Galetovic, 2007. "The Basic Public Finance of Public-Private Partnerships," NBER Working Papers 13284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Public-private Partnerships and Government Spending Limits," Economics Working Papers 0075, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  5. J. Luis Guasch & Stéphane Straub, 2006. "Renegotiation Of Infrastructure Concessions: An Overview," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 77(4), pages 479-493, December.
  6. Janos Kornai & Eric Maskin & Gerard Roland, 2002. "Understanding the Soft Budget Constraint," Economics Working Papers 0019, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  7. Olivier Cadot & Lars-Hendrik Röller & Andreas Stephan, 2004. "Contribution to Productivity or Pork Barrel?: The Two Faces of Infrastructure Investment," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 458, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  8. Blanc-Brude, Frederic & Goldsmith, Hugh & Valila, Timo, 2007. "Public-Private Partnerships In Europe: An Update," Economic and Financial Reports 2007/3, European Investment Bank, Economics Department.
  9. Guasch, J. Luis & Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Straub, Stephane, 2003. "Renegotiation of concession contracts in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3011, The World Bank.
  10. Martimort, David & Pouyet, Jerome, 2008. "To build or not to build: Normative and positive theories of public-private partnerships," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 393-411, March.
  11. Hillman, Arye L, 1982. "Declining Industries and Political-Support Protectionist Motives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1180-87, December.
  12. J. Guasch & Jean-Jacques Laffont & Stéphane Straub, 2006. "Renegotiation of Concession Contracts: A Theoretical Approach," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 55-73, September.
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