Research event

The political cost of public-private partnerships: Theory and evidence from Colombian infrastructure development

A presentation by Anthony Michael Bertelli (Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management, Bocconi University). A session of the Organization and Management Research Colloquium on Innovation in the Public Sphere.


Prior registration is not required. Refreshments will be served.

Private involvement in public goods provision has been an essential element of New Public Management style reforms, but does it help or hurt the electoral fortunes of incumbent politicians? An emerging literature suggests that PPPs are valuable components of politicians’ credit-claiming strategies, but negative externalities owing to a reputation for project delays or failures may overshadow the positive outcomes politicians expect. We study a novel dataset that matches 86 infrastructure partnerships to electoral districts and over 15,000 individual survey respondents in Colombia to uncover micro-level evidence about the influence of PPPs on the fortunes of incumbents. Our initial evidence suggests that at the level of the electoral district, the presence of a PPP is associated with lower incumbent vote share, yet at the individual level, voters with an infrastructure PPP in their districts are more likely to express an intention to vote for the incumbent. We clarify this apparent contradiction through an informational theory of blame attribution, showing further evidence that vote intention for the incumbent decreases as the number of past PPP projects in their district increases. Our results suggest that managing contracts and partnerships plays an important role in domestic electoral politics that deserves more scholarly attention.

Anthony M. Bertelli is a full Professor at the Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management, Bocconi University in Milan. Previously, he was a Professor of the Politics of Public Policy and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. His research is focused on issues of governance, centering on the role of political institutions in shaping public policy outcomes and organizational structure. Prof. Bertelli earned a M.A. in Economics at Penn State, a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D from the University of Chicago. He is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Political Science at University College London. Between 2009-2014, Tony held the C.C. Crawford Chair in Management and Performance in the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and has previously served on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Texas A&M University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Manchester. He is the author of four books including Madison’s Managers with Laurence E. Lynn, Jr. (Johns Hopkins University Press); The Political Economy of Public Sector Governance (Cambridge University Press); and Public Policy Investment with Peter John (Oxford University Press). His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Public Administration Review.  Tony is Senior Executive Editor of the Journal of Public Policy, which is housed at NYU Wagner, and serves on the editorial boards of the British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and International Public Management Journal.