George Bilicic, the chairman of global investment bank Lazard’s infrastructure business, says the US public is becoming more relaxed about private sector capital playing a role in the financing of American infrastructure.
Citing a survey of 1000 voters sponsored by Lazard, Bilicic told Reuters: “On the broad question of public private partnerships, if you view that as an available budget tool for governments together with every other alternative that is a budget tool, public private partnerships poll better. That includes cutting spending, borrowing more money and raising taxes.”
According to the survey, 59.8 percent of those polled were in favour of PPP being used to provide public infrastructure assets. In 2008, the same survey found a 52 percent support level; in 2007, 57 percent expressed favourable views on PPP.
The survey also found that voters’ views vary between infrastructure asset classes. More than 60 percent like the idea of private funding made available for a range of assets including roads, bridges, airports, convention centres, parking lots and stadiums. However, there is greater scepticism towards PPP when applied to wastewater treatment, ports, lotteries and drinking water systems.
Bilicic, a senior US infrastructure banker who returned to Lazard last year after a brief stint at the fledgling infrastructure platform of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, said the trends boded well for private financing of American infrastructure.
“In the United States, non-energy infrastructure is a brand new asset class and it's a brand new area of commercial activity,” Bilicic told Reuters. “The level of constructive creativity has been pretty limited and there's a tremendous opportunity for new structures, new approaches, (and) new ways to work with governments and stakeholders.”