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Water spend falters in PPP-shy EU countries

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POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY is blocking spending on water quality improvements in some of the 10 central and eastern European countries that joined the European Union in May, industry suppliers warned this week.

The European Union has allocated a £691M annual budget for transport and environmental improvements in the 10 countries. This runs until 2006.

But to claim these funds states must provide matching funding.

It was expected that Public Private Partnership (PPP) deals would be used to find these funds (NCE 29 April).

But these have been slow to take off as public opinion in the new member countries is strongly against the use of private companies.

'These countries said they would use private finance but politically these schemes are just not moving, ' British Water international director Paul Horton told NCE.

As a result contractors and suppliers are starting to view PPP concessions as too risky, he added.

ICE European board chairman and Arup director Keith Seago said the slow start was to be expected.

'Culturally, private finance is very different to what these places are used to and I am not depressed about the situation. It is all part of the process, ' he said Consultant Atkins admitted that opportunities are 'rare' but progress is being made - particularly in road building.

This week the firm won a three year deal to develop a PPP to build the north western section of Prague's ring road.

'The reluctance to engage in PPP is certainly not the case in road building, ' said Atkins project manager Peter Snelson.

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