A Guide to Learn About What Is A Private Finance Initiative (PFI)?
Jun 04, 2022 By Susan Kelly


What is a Private Finance Initiative (PFI)? Private finance initiatives (PFI) provide a means to finance public sector projects using investment from the private sector. PFIs relieve government agencies and taxpayers from the cost of raising funds needed for the projects. A program launched through the federal government back in 1992 was to encourage private sector companies to submit bids to central and local government officials for the provision of public infrastructure as well as other services. It is a method of procurement that allows private companies to finance the construction and operation of infrastructure and provides long-term infrastructure services and facilities management by way of contract arrangements for the long term (also known as concession agreements).

Understanding the Initiatives of Private Finance

PFI, Private finance initiatives, first came into existence in the UK in 1992 and began to gain popularity following 1997. They are utilized to finance main public works projects, like prisons, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, etc. Instead of funding these projects in advance by taxpayers, private businesses are contracted to manage, finance, and finish the projects. Based on the nature of the project, PFI contracts usually last between 25 and 30 years. However, it is not uncommon for businesses to sign contracts lasting shorter than 20 years or longer than 40 years. The consortium is able to provide specific services throughout the contract. This was previously handled in the public sector. The consortium is compensated for the services provided throughout this contract based on a "no services, not a charge" basis.

Companies make their money back via the long-term payment of loans and interest paid by the government. This means that the government is not required to release a massive amount of money in one go to fund a significant project. Termination procedures are incredibly complex because many projects are unable to obtain private financing without assurance that the loan financing for this project is paid back when it comes to an end. In the majority of termination cases, the public sector is expected to pay back the debt and then take over the management of the undertaking. In reality, the termination process is only a last resort.

Benefits of PFI

Governments have historically had to raise funds to finance public infrastructure projects. If they're unable to raise funds, the government may take out a loan from the bond market in order to contract with contractors and pay them to finish the project. This is often complicated, and that's where the PFI is in. PFIs are designed to increase the time-to-completion of tasks and move some risks involved in the construction and operation of those projects out of the government sector into the private sector. Financial advisers like investment banks can help with bidding, negotiation, and financing procedures. PFIs can also enhance the relationships between the private and public sectors and provide benefits over the long term. By establishing this connection, both sectors are able to share information and resources.

The Disadvantages of PFI

One of the major drawbacks is that because the repayment terms are interest plus payments, The burden could shift to future taxpayers. Furthermore, the plans may not be limited to construction but also ongoing maintenance after the project is completed and completed, increasing the project's cost in the future and tax burden.

The Criticism Regarding PFIs from the United Kingdom

One of the major complaints about the private financing initiatives is that it places a higher cost on the government than it usually would have. This is because, most of the time, governments pay more for projects that are completed than the actual value or what they would have paid if the project had been executed in the hands of the state. Some critics claim that private companies profit more from this partnership, but the taxpayers and the government end up in the red. There is also the argument that some projects aren't enough to warrant the sum ultimately paid through the federal government.


Private finance is a method in which the government sector can finance large public works projects by leveraging companies in the private sector. PFIs relieve the government and taxpayers of obtaining capital for projects. The government pays private companies over the long term, and these payments are accompanied by interest.