Public tenders for 50 schools to be held next month
CAIRO: The Ministry of Finance has announced the initiation of a new public-private partnership (p.p.p.) to build 50 elementary and secondary schools in 11 governorates in an attempt to meet the president s campaign promise of introducing 3,500 new schools into the system by 2011.
Project tenders will be held before the end of September, a MF statement says.
Several construction companies have expressed interest in the project in which the government provides the land and the companies provide development and maintenance over 15-20 year agreements, a MF official says.
The contracts will stipulate annual operation, maintenance and finance fees to be paid to participating companies, the Ministry of Finance statement says. Among the governorates standing to benefit the most from the first phase of the partnership are Kafr El Sheikh with six schools, Alexandria with five and El Gharbiya with four. Cairo and Qalubiya will each receive one school.
The ministry official declined to disclose the names of the companies that have already expressed interest and met with the ministers of finance, investment and education last Tuesday. Still, the official adds the project aims to eventually build schools in all 27 governorates and relieve some of the continually mounting pressure on the Ministry of Education s budget.
But if the project sounds too good to be true, critics point to the private sector s participation in health care as an example of why it might not live up to the hype. Although hospitals built under the system provide better services, critics point out they have essentially eliminated free healthcare and limited access to the rich.
Nihal Fahmy, political science professor at the American University in Cairo, says it is too early to judge the government s attempt to involve the private sector in the education system. The partnership, she says, has the potential for success but only if the participating companies are more socially responsible than profit-driven.
We will not know for sure until we know which companies are participating, says Fahmy. Is the government s goal to reduce its responsibilities or involve a responsible private sector? If [the latter] is the goal then I don t see a problem with implementing such a deal. But the main issue remains, are these companies concerned with developing the education sector or are they profit-based?
Fahmy says the announcement of accepting tenders to implement the project indicates the government is likely looking for the best financial deal instead of seeking out companies that are willing to invest for the specific purpose of improving the public education system. Still, she says the deal stands to benefit the government in reducing its financial responsibilities, which should theoretically lead to an improvement in the system.
When we talk about the education system, we have to keep in mind the curriculums are not at fault, says Fahmy. It is the teaching methods and available facilities that are at fault. If this partnership allows for the establishment of better facilities, at the least, while giving the government the opportunity to finance the costs over time, it will succeed.
Since 1991, the private sector has participated in developing 16 infrastructure projects in four traditionally public domains including telecommunication, transportation, irrigation and sewage with $6.2 billion (LE 35.7 billion) in total investment, according to ministry figures. The numbers pale in comparison to other developing countries over the same period of time. Malaysia, for example, recorded 81 projects worth almost $38 billion and the Philippines came in with 78 projects worth almost $32 billion, according to the Ministry of Finance.