Transport Minister Jeff Radebe has railed at a “risk-averse” private sector for not investing in provision of public infrastructure.

Addressing the 26th annual South African Transport Conference in Pretoria yesterday, Radebe told delegates that “some stakeholders have not put their shoulder to the wheel of transformation”, although some expected to reap the benefits accruing from government infrastructure investment programmes.

“The private sector has not come to the party in so far as the provision of public infrastructure is concerned,” Radebe said.

“We call on the private sector to come to the party and share the risk with us as government so that we both can reap in the long-term the benefits that will accrue from infrastructure investment.”

The government announced this year it would spend R21,5bn on building and improving public transport infrastructure ahead of the Fifa 2010 World Cup tournament.

No major public-private partnerships have been announced in rebuilding roads and railways infrastructure.

The state has since 2003 been calling on the private sector to participate in funding infrastructure projects to fast-track delivery of key services to the poor. The partnerships involve locking in long-term collaboration between parties to share costs, rewards and risks of projects.

The treasury, through which public-private partnerships have to be approved, has said the government policy is to use “diverse sources of funding” to meet infrastructure and service-delivery needs.

Radebe called on the private sector and academic institutions to make their inputs in the development of a strategy to “locate transport at the centre of our economic growth”.

He said roads were congested, and this required new ideas on how to optimise the use of coastal shipping. “I will keenly await the recommendations from the maritime experts as to how we as the government can harness and efficiently massify the use of this resource for short sea transportation,” said Radebe.

Landowners and property developers also came under attack for “price inflation”.

“There is observable price inflation if it is known the state will be bidding for the use of the resources and the expertise of the stakeholders.

“Without due regard for the mediating land market system, certain landowners and property developers have inflated their prices in such a manner that land becomes out of the price reach for the state,” said Radebe.

He said the agriculture and land affairs department had raised concern about this phenomenon.

Another challenge was the skills shortage, which was hampering SA’s ability to implement its investment programmes. Radebe attributed the country’s “skills depletion” to the brain drain, past education inequalities, global mobility of the workforce, job hopping and high turnover rate of public officials.

He said that this had resulted in SA importing skills from overseas, which came at a huge expense.

The government said recently that it was on a mission to recruit about 400 engineers from abroad including South Africans working overseas to help implement and manage the country’s R400bn infrastructure investment programme.