The simple answer is yes—with a little help from the Infrastructure Prioritization Framework developed by the World Bank.
Experts can make decisions based on remarkably few pieces of information. Research by James Shanteau at Kansas State University has shown that expertise is reflected in the type of information used, not the amount of it. The Infrastructure Prioritization Framework, or IPF, attempts to capitalize on precisely these aspects of expertise and decision-making. This enables objective evaluations of infrastructure projects using minimal but relevant data in information-constrained environments.
Why is this important? But this does not mean the resulting decisions have to be poor. Critical to such situations is the ability to identify and select accurate and relevant information to achieve the desired objectives, something that requires experience, expertise, and judgment.
prioritizing infrastructure investments
The Infrastructure Prioritization Framework (IPF) is a quantitative tool that synthesizes and displays financial and economic as well as social and environmental indicators at the infrastructure project level. Two composite indices or dimensions are displayed in a Cartesian plane to offer a simplified picture of comparative performance alongside the public budget constraint for a particular sector.
In Panama, a healthy economic climate and enthusiastic institutional support provided an ideal testing ground for the World Bank’s Infrastructure Prioritization Framework (IPF). The country’s GDP growth and economic buoyancy in 2014 motivated an ambitious public investment program, accompanied by a high number of infrastructure project proposals to the Ministry of Economics and Finance. Coupled with political commitment to narrow the deficit, Panama moved to implement select projects for a five-year strategic period.
Government officials and PPP practitioners make difficult decisions about infrastructure projects all the time. But perhaps the choice they grapple with the most is which projects to select for implementation within a given investment period. Many factors come into play, such as government budget constraints, the relative efficiency and effectiveness of investments, as well as costs and benefits of projects to society. With so much to consider, governments need improved decision-making frameworks that are rigorous enough to accommodate multiple components but practical enough to remain feasible and affordable.