Salas Castro, Álvaro A. (2018). Perceptions of public and private partnerships in Costa Rica. Doctoral dissertation (Public Administration), Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.
Abstract: In this dissertation, I explore the perceptions and beliefs of decision-makers, public officials, and stakeholders engaged in transportation infrastructure policies and infrastructure public-private partnerships (IPPPs) in Costa Rica. Specifically, I use Q methodology coupled with interviews of both participants and non-participants to answer four research questions: (i) What do public officials and leaders believe are the most important things to consider when designing infrastructure public and private partnership for a highway construction project in Costa Rica? (ii) What are the most contentious issues in developing and implementing infrastructure PPPs? (iii) Are there areas of consensus among the representatives from various decision-making groups? (iv) Given the areas of contention and consensus, what avenues and strategies can be used to support effective implementation of transportation policy and PPPs?
The findings from this study may help Costa Rica better address its transportation policy and IPPPs challenges. First, the findings reveal three distinct views on IPPPs in Costa Rica: one favoring productivity and the private sector, not participation; a second favoring national competitive and development strategies; and a third favoring citizen participation, transparency, and public benefits.
Second, the most contentious issues generally center on the means-ends relationship in IPPPs, and specifically on strategy, participation, and outcomes. Additional areas of contention include the costs to citizens and lack of transparency, widespread distrust exacerbated by a lack of mechanisms for conflict resolution and citizen participation, and the historic neglect of public transportation policy in Costa Rica.
Third, the Q study revealed a single consensus statement and five statements that represented areas of agreement, two of which were ranked as most important and three of which were ranked as most unimportant. All of the most important statements, including the consensus item and two areas of agreement, concern the development and competitiveness of Costa Rica, while the most unimportant statements concern more social aspects of IPPPs, such as inclusion of diverse views, public acceptance, and discussion of conflicts.
Finally, the consensus areas suggest that national development and competitiveness could be a starting point for conversations among about IPPPs in Costa Rica. Other data suggest three additional avenues and strategies that could support effective implementation of transportation policy and IPPPs, including: (1) Reforming the governance structure of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) and creating enabling legislation that facilitates the use of IPPPs; (2) Building trust among the stakeholders by improving the capacity and human capital of MOPT and by using public participation; and (3) Using modern, more advanced public relations strategies centered on the two-way symmetrical model of communication at the very beginning of the IPPP process. Hopefully, the results of this dissertation will foster the good will—and the political will—to move forward on this crucial aspect of national development and success in Costa Rica.
Álvaro A Salas Castro <email@example.com> is in the INCAE Business School [Instituto Centroamericano de Administración de Empresas], Alajuela, Costa Rica.