By Anognya P, Intern, Dvara Research
In light of the recent proliferation of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models in social welfare delivery in India, the following piece briefly explains the origins, evolution, and progress of said models. Specifically, it contextualizes the PPP phenomenon within two theoretical frameworks – New Public Management (NPM) and Collaborative Governance (CG). Further, using the example of Common Services Centres (CSCs), the piece underscores the design and delivery challenges faced by PPP outlets while shouldering welfare roles traditionally performed by State functionaries.
New Public Management, which originated in the 1990s, was inspired by increasingly complex societies and the difficulties faced by the classic welfare state in coping with this complexity.[1,2,3] It was primarily focused on providing public services through the inclusion of private and non-profit actors in service delivery. In other words, NPM was an attempt to integrate government mechanisms with newer forms of collaboration in service delivery and project implementation. A key example of this integration is the PPP model.
Centred around collaborative governance ‘between and among’ public and private actors, PPPs began with a keen focus on infrastructure – largely because infrastructure projects are burdened with political and environmental concerns in conjunction with hefty financial commitments. The Eleventh (2007-2012) and Twelfth Five Year Plans (2012-2017) clearly expounded the rationale for PPPs in developing infrastructure. Grounded on macro-economic developments in the late 2000s – the slowdown in delivery and investment of infrastructure projects – both plans emphasized the need for increased investments in infrastructure through public investments and private execution.
In recent times, however, India has extended the PPP model beyond infrastructure development into projects that traditionally fall under the mandate of the State. These include but are not limited to provisioning of welfare through food ration shops, delivery of monetary benefits such as pensions, and facilitating access to G2C services such as documentation and enrolment to government schemes. For example, the Rajasthan state government recently signed an MoU with Future Group Enterprise Ltd. to rebrand and manage Fair Price Shops via the Annapurna Bhandar Yojana. Structured as a PPP model, the initiative aims to sell multi-brand consumer goods at 5000 fair price shops in its first phase. To take a pan-India example, in 2006 the government launched CSCs – front-end delivery points for a range of G2C and B2C services across India. Established under the National E-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006 under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, these centres are set up as information and communication technology-enabled PPP outlets. Run by private individuals called Village-Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs), CSCs are envisioned to be a ‘change instrument that provides a structured platform for socially-inclusive community participation for development.’ Their key objective is to fulfil the twin goals of social development and profitability (for VLEs) by enabling citizens to act as facilitators of government services in their own community.
A survey of 10 districts was conducted in June 2018 by Rahul Lahoti and Rajendran Narayanan from Azim Premji University and Inayat Sabhikhi, an independent researcher who is now with Harvard Kennedy School, to assess the performance of CSCs in Jharkhand. The findings highlight a drift from the aforesaid objectives enunciated under the NeGP. Apart from serving a social purpose, CSCs are supposed to provide VLEs with a financially sustainable source of livelihood. However, inadequate commissions from the state government forces them to overcharge consumers, a majority of whom come from ‘unbanked and isolated rural communities’. This, in turn, signals inadequate accountability structures and grievance redressal mechanisms in the system. Moreover, not a single VLE from the survey identified themselves as a ‘change agent’,[19,20] thus highlighting the absence of any orientation that a role in providing public services mandates.
These findings from Jharkhand call for a more detailed assessment of PPP models in welfare delivery in India, particularly in light of CSCs and ‘agencification’ i.e. a phenomenon where policy formulation is retained by the government, but implementation is handled by public or private agencies. At a global level, this type of ‘agency fever’ has gained popularity since the late 1980s, largely due to the prevalence of NPM discourse in policy circles.
Existing literature on agencification and PPP models remains restricted to infrastructure and health. In the Indian context, given the government’s recent push towards CSCs in spite of their derisory effectiveness (at least in one state), as well as the introduction of private players in other forms of public services such as education, health and elderly care, it becomes imperative to critically review PPPs in the welfare delivery paradigm.
In a nutshell, this post sets the backdrop to our larger research engagement focused on the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of PPP models in welfare delivery in India. The provision of social sector services has traditionally been a core function of the ‘Welfare State’. However, given that the last decade has been characterized by a gradual outsourcing of some aspects of this function to private entities operating under a PPP model, it is crucial to assess and identify the theoretical underpinnings of PPPs, their regulatory (including accountability structures) and legal frameworks, incentive structures and the extent to which existing PPP models can balance social and private interests. These models, of which Common Services Centres are a prominent example, have been touted as the silver bullet to address implementation challenges, especially with respect to last-mile delivery of social welfare benefits. However, the ground reality is far from ideal. A plethora of these challenges continue to persist, and one can also argue, that some of these new ‘technocratic’ delivery models seem to have exacerbated the last-mile delivery conundrum. A critical review of PPPs in the welfare delivery paradigm is yet to be undertaken, especially in the context of India.
 Hood, C. (1991). A Public Management for All Seasons. Public Administration. Vol. 69 Issue 1 pp.3-19.
 Osborne, S. P. 2006. “The New Public Governance?” Public Management Review 8 (3): 377–387.
Six key elements of NPM are – 1) an attention to lessons from private-sector management; 2) the growth both of hands-on ‘management’– in its own right and not as offshoot of professionalism – and of ‘arm’s length’ organizations where policy implementation is organizationally distanced from the policy makers (as opposed to the ‘inter-personal’ distancing of the policy –administration split within PA); 3) a focus upon entrepreneurial leadership within public service organizations; 4) an emphasis on inputs and output control and evaluation and upon performance management and audit; 5) the disaggregation of public services to their most basic units and a focus on their cost management; and 6) the growth of use of markets, competition and contracts for resource allocation and service delivery within public services.
 Klijn, E.-H. (2012). New Public Management and Governance: A Comparison. Oxford Handbooks
 Ibid. pp 206-209.
 Ansell, C. (2012). Collaborative Governance. Oxford Handbook of Governance.
 Ibid. pp 500.
 Casady, C Eriksson K Raymond E.L. and Richard, S. (2020). (Re)defining Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the New Public Governance (NPG) Paradigm: An Institutional Maturity Perspective. Public Management Review. Volume 22 Issue 2 pp 161-183.
 Report of the Committee on Revisiting and Revitalising Public Private Partnership Model of Infrastructure, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance (2015).
 Sabhikhi, I Narayanan, R and Lahoti, R. (2019). Does Digital India deliver in improving Government front-end services?
 This analysis was inferred from the following question in the PKAS Questionnaire for VLEs in Jharkhand: Do you perceive the running of Pragya Kendras as a government job or as a business venture? a. Government job b. Business c. I don’t know d. NA
 Singh, A. (2007). Health Reforms in Rajasthan: An Empirical Study on Agencification. Policy and Society, 26(2), 61–82.
 Nchukwe, F. F and Adejuwon, K. D. (2014). Agencification of Public Service Delivery in Developing Societies: Experiences of Pakistan and Tanzania Agency Models. Africa’s Public Service Delivery and Performance Review, Volume 2 Issue 3 pp. 106-124.
 Mital, K and Mital, V. (2016). Public Private Partnership and Social Infrastructure.