Photo: Tony Salas | Flickr Creative Commons
In my home state of California in the United States, major drought-fueled wildfires tore across the state in the latter half of 2017 setting records for both the state’s deadliest fire, as well as the largest fire. Wildfire season is back in 2018 with the most destructive year ever—currently more than 13,000 firefighters are battling 9 large blazes that have damaged or destroyed over 2,000 homes or buildings and scorched over 730,000 acres of land.
The Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California recently broke the state’s previous record for largest fire, spreading furiously due to heat, wind, and years of drought.
California’s Governor Jerry Brown said this is becoming the new normal…where fires threaten people’s lives, property, neighborhoods and, of course, billions and billions of dollars. Many point to climate change as the driver for weather conditions fueling most of the wildfires. July was the hottest on record for the state, and extreme weather is causing larger and more destructive fires across the whole western United States.
Global Infrastructure Facility
Photo: Reychelle Ann Ignacio | Marketplace Designers
Sometimes change creeps up on us. And we can step back and realize that the world is different. This rings true currently in the infrastructure space. Here are three examples:
It’s now commonly agreed that we won’t achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without the involvement of private sector solutions: management, financing, and innovation. Involving the private sector is no longer an “if” question. We’re beyond ideology and calls for more aid transfers. Now we’re looking at “how”—and under what circumstances—crowding in private solutions help deliver better access to infrastructure services while being fiscally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
This is what the World Bank Group’s Maximizing Finance for Development initiative is about, for infrastructure and other sectors as well. Cameroon’s power sector is a good example, where sector reforms have been supported by public loans, which in turn have helped crowd in private and financing from development finance institutions (DFIs) for large investments like the 216 megawatt Kribi gas project.
Photo: RoyBuri | Pixabay
In developed countries, we tend to take infrastructure services for granted. It’s easy to forget, when living in London, Washington, or Singapore, how much lies behind the simple act of switching on the lights. But as a young person growing up in India in the 1960s, I knew what it was like to live with rampant electricity shortages and terrible roads. It was easy to complain about it, and we did. It seemed, then, that the solution was simple: government should simply cough up the money, get to work, and build the infrastructure.
But there was a lot more we didn’t think about.
Photo: Andreas Wecker | Flicker Creative Commons
By promoting better standards, methods and benchmarking, development finance institutions can move the mountain that is preventing institutional capital from flowing into infrastructure.
The World Bank Group's initiative to Maximize Finance for Development (MFD) aims to find solutions to crowd in all possible sources of finance, innovation, and expertise in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the case of infrastructure investment, a significant contribution to long-term sources of private finance is expected from institutional investors such as pension plans, life insurers, and sovereign wealth funds.
These investors have become increasingly interested in infrastructure investment in recent years, in search of new sources of returns, diversification, duration and inflation hedging. However, they cannot be expected to make a substantial and durable contribution to the long-term financing of infrastructure without three important changes:
Photo: only_kim / Shutterstock.com
There are many drivers of climate change, but few would disagree that energy infrastructure built according to “business-as-usual” standards is a major one. Meeting the lofty goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accords requires powering our homes, businesses, and government agencies with a cleaner mix of energy that includes more renewable sources. It also requires promoting standards that encourage energy efficiency—for example, for appliances or building codes—as a low-cost and high-impact way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) is playing a positive role by preparing bankable, climate-smart projects that help countries build low-carbon energy infrastructure and encourage greater energy-efficiency measures. The GIF both drives and leverages private sector investments in climate-smart projects by promoting good governance and standardization in project preparation and has a sizeable portfolio of climate-smart projects in the pipeline.
In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan, unleashing a tsunami that left some 20,000 people dead or missing. Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture and a regional economic hub, was heavily affected by the disaster. About 500,000 residents in the city lost access to water, and the city’s primary wastewater treatment plant was completely submerged by the tsunami. Also, the tsunami damaged 325 kilometers of coastal railway assets and flooded about 100 kilometers of national highway in the Tohoku region, leading to the immediate closure of inland transport access to the devastated towns in need of assistance.
Four years later, while the recovery effort from the earthquake and tsunami was still underway, a private consortium signed a 30-year concession to operate Sendai Airport, making it the first state-owned airport in Japan operated by the private sector. This success was welcomed by policymakers and public-private partnership (PPP) practitioners with surprise—how could it be possible for a private operator to make a long-term investment decision in such a disaster-prone region?
Photo: auphoto / Shutterstock.com
As Washington, D.C.’s infrastructure braces for its first winter freeze and 2017 draws to a close, this feels like the right moment for a recap on what the year has brought us in terms of closing the infrastructure gap across emerging markets and developing economies; policy directions within and outside of the World Bank Group; new instruments, tools, and resources; and—the proof in the pudding—actual investment levels.
There may not be one blog that can capture all of those themes in detail, but here is a brief overview of what 2017 has meant and what is on the docket for 2018 and beyond.
Photo: LWYang | Flickr Creative Commons
Since the 1980s, investment in Brazil’s infrastructure has declined from 5% to a little above 2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), scarcely enough to cover depreciation and far below that of most middle-income countries (see figure below). The result is a substantial infrastructure gap. Over the same period, Brazil has struggled with stagnant productivity growth. The poor status of infrastructure is broadly believed to be a key reason for Brazil’s growth malaise.
Photo: Ashim D'silva | Unsplash
From “Billions to Trillions”, to the Hamburg Principles and Ambitions, to Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), Realizing that constrained public and multilateral development bank (MDB) funding cannot fully address the critical challenges that developing nations face, the World Bank Group is pursuing private sector solutions whenever they can help achieve development goals, in order to reserve scarce public finance for when it’s needed most. This is especially true in the delivery of infrastructure.
Photo: totojang1977 / Shutterstock.com
In my last blog, I compared Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) with marriage. I had explained that, though very different, the public and private can come together as they each possess characteristics beneficial to the other. Great in theory, but often difficult in practice.
Critics of PPPs abound and listing them here would be impractical. But whether they are auditors, civil society or within the World Bank Group, critics help us improve. We try to respond to our critics, including through blogs such as this one.