Public Private Partnership and fiscal illusion: A systematic review

Alessandra Cepparulo, Giuseppe Eusepi, Luisa Giuriato


Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are mostly presented as a means to introduce efficient procurement methods and better value for money to taxpayers. However, the complexity of the PPP mechanism, their lack of transparency, accounting rules and implicit liabilities make it often impossible to perceive the amount of public expenditure involved and the long-run impact on taxpayers, providing room for fiscal illusion, i.e., the illusion that PPPs are much less expensive than traditional public investments. This psaper, thanks to a systematic review of the literature on the EU countries experience, tries to unveil the sources of this illusion by looking at the reasons behind the PPPs’ choice, their real costs, and the sources of fiscal risks. The literature suggests that PPPs are more costly than public funding, especially when contingent liabilities are not taken into account, and are employed as mechanisms to circumvent budgetary restrictions and to spend off-balance. The paper concludes that the public sector should share more risks with private sectors by reducing the amount of guarantees, and should prevent governments from operating through a sleight of hand that deflects attention away from off-balance financing, by applying a neutral fiscal recording system.


PPPs; systematic literature review; off-balance accounting; budget constraints; fiscal risks

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