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2011 Documento de Trabajo #286

Comments on Donahue and Zeckhauser: Collaborative Governance

In times of straightened circumstances for governments in most developed countries, it becomes necessary to explore alternative, and perhaps better, means of providing the services that are usually delivered by governments. Since the late 1980t’s governments have explored the so-called Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), which attempt to delegate the provision of some of these services to private firms, in exchange for a remuneration. PPP contracts are meticulous in detailing the outputs, procedures and the measures by which the contract is fulfilled. Frequently, the relationship between government and the private firm, and this can hamper the efficient provision of the services. Moreover, these contracts are often used to disguise increases in public investment, so PPPs have been less successful than their proponents expected, though they can be a valuable instrument if used with care. In this book, professors Donahue and Zeckhauser (henceforth ZD), from the Kennedy School at Harvard, describe another type of arrangement between the private and the public sectors, which they believe may be more productive in many situations. They propose that some contracts between the private and the public sector work better when they are governed by collaboration, hence the name of the book. This is not a new method, and ZD describe many examples of successful (and sometimes unsuccessful), collaborative agreements, as in the case of charter schools. The contribution of the authors is the description and analysis of these arrangements, its advantages and shortcomings, ending with a checklist of when and how to proceed with collaborative agreements. The book has a conceptual framework that helps to understand the issues that are involved in collaborative arrangements and provides a guide to the practical issues that appear in designing and implementing these special contracts.

Ronald Fischer

Publicado en: Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. XLIX (December 2011) pp. 1282-1286.