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Two years in the making, last week the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDBG) and the World Bank Group officially launched the landmark report Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships at a discussion broadcast online from Washington, D.C. We illustrated that, through partnerships, the power of Islamic finance can be instrumental in unlocking financial resources necessary to meet the tremendous demand for critical infrastructure.
In fact, infrastructure PPPs funded with Islamic finance have proliferated in the Middle East, and have flourished in other countries throughout Africa and Asia. Both of our institutions are committed to leverage our competitive advantages, achieve effective interventions, and yield measurable results in scaling up and broadening the use of Islamic finance.
Photo: CIFOR | Flickr Creative Commons
Africa is a continent rich in natural resources and boasts a large young, ambitious, and entrepreneurial-minded population. Harnessed properly, these endowments and advantages could usher in a period of sustained economic growth and increased well-being for all Africans.
However, a lack of modern infrastructure is a major challenge to Africa’s economic development and constitutes a significant impediment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to a recent report by the World Bank, there are varying trends in Africa’s infrastructure performance across key sectors and regions. In telecommunications, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a dramatic improvement in the quantity and quality of infrastructure, and the gains are broad-based. Access to safe water has also risen, with 77% of the population having access to water in 2015, from 51% in 1990. In the power sector, by contrast, the region’s electricity-generating capacity has changed little in more than 20 years. At about 0.04 megawatts per 1,000 people, capacity is less than one-third of that of South Asia, and less than one-tenth of that of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Photo: Scaling Solar project in Zambia
What is a common thread between Argentina, Maldives, and Zambia? In each of these countries, the World Bank provided guarantees to support transparent auctions for renewable energy. Through these, I have seen how the Bank’s involvement helped increase private investors’ confidence, attract world-class developers, and ultimately reduce tariffs.
Drawing on 10 years of diverse experience in the power sector in both public and private organizations, my role is to help bridge the divide between public and private parties and help each side better understand the other. The World Bank is ideally positioned for this. Both sides understand the World Bank carries out a detailed due diligence and ensures the auction meets international standards. Both sides appreciate the World Bank will be an honest broker if issues arise. Because of its long term and continuous involvement in our client countries, the World Bank can help identify and solve issues early on. As such, no World Bank project-based guarantee has ever been called.
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Photo: Dominic Chavez / International Finance Corporation
In the early 1990s, Colombia’s road infrastructure was a maze of poorly maintained roads and bad highways. Difficult geography—the Pacific coast jungle and the Andes branching out into three chains—made it harder to improve road conditions and connect isolated communities. Conflict, corruption, and short-term political priorities contributed to the problems plaguing Colombia’s road system. But just as influential were the problems with the nation’s existing concession contracts that had wrong incentives, created opportunities for renegotiating signed contracts, and assigned unproportioned demand risk to the Government of Colombia.
The term “connectivity” is familiar to most of us, even if we don’t think about it much. When we bemoan the shortcomings of the mobile network in our neighborhood or thank the barista for the free and unexpectedly fast WIFI at our favorite coffee bar, we’re acknowledging the place connectivity has in our lives.
But connectivity also plays a larger, global role—one that links communities, economies, and countries through transport, trade, communications, energy, and water networks. In this broader form, it’s known as global infrastructure connectivity, and it boasts a special super power: the ability to catalyze infrastructure development.
Photo: User 377053 | Pixabay
The Argentinian presidency of the G20 opens this month and will be marked by a focus on infrastructure investment. The G20 and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have already announced a widescale data collection initiative to create benchmarks to monitor the risk-adjusted financial performance of private infrastructure debt and equity investments.
It’s about time.
Investors have hit a roadblock when investing in infrastructure. Until now, none of the metrics needed by investors were documented in a robust manner, if at all, for privately held infrastructure equity or debt. This has left investors frustrated and wary. In a 2016 survey of major asset owners by the EDHEC Infrastructure Institute (EDHECinfra) and the Global Infrastructure Hub, more than half declared they did not trust the valuations reported by infrastructure asset managers. How, under such conditions, can the vast increases in long-term investment in infrastructure by institutional players envisaged by the G20 take place?
2017 was a busy year in the world of infrastructure and public-private partnerships at the World Bank Group: from new knowledge products and tools, to innovations and success stories in places ranging from Peru and Ukraine, to Jordan, Pakistan, and Fiji. As we look at our top content that resonated most with you, our blog readers, we can categorize these posts into three broad categories:
Photo: Michiel van Nimwegen | Flickr Creative Commons
Just ahead of this year’s anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, I visited the Tsunami Honganji Vihara site in Sri Lanka where upwards of 2,000 people died when their train was destroyed by the force of the waves. Shortly after my visit, Sri Lanka was faced with an unusually large tropical cyclone that pummeled the capital of Colombo, and caused extensive flooding, power failures and infrastructure damage. And, a few thousand miles away, Bali’s highest volcano, Mount Agung, was threatening to erupt, causing considerable anxiety in Colombo that it could trigger another tsunami event of the same magnitude of the 2004 disaster.
Upon my return to the United States I learned of the raging wildfires in California causing massive damages.
This year’s seemingly never-ending adverse weather events, exacerbated by climate change, along with adverse natural events such as earthquakes, are negatively impacting critical infrastructure globally. Some might describe 2017 as a global “annus horribilis” for adverse “force majeure” events.
Photo: Debbie Hildreth Pisarcik | Flickr Creative Commons
Several years ago, after almost two decades at various investment banks, I joined the World Bank’s Financial Solutions team. I had always thought of the World Bank as the leading concessional lender to governments, the financial muscle behind large infrastructure projects, and the coveted supranational client of investment banks. I have since discovered the power of World Bank guarantees and how they can help borrowers maximize their World Bank country envelopes. Since joining, I have helped various clients raise over $2 billion in commercial finance. And all this with a fraction of World Bank exposure.
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.