Infrastructure 2013: global priorities, global insights
Europe, Middle East and Africa
Most European countries—at least for the time being—have slowed infrastructure funding as the region copes with severe government debt problems by slashing budgets and postponing many infrastructure projects.
In the United Kingdom, infrastructure spending gains favor with the public—“once one of the first areas slashed in troubled times, it’s now better protected.” After the success of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the anticipation of London Crossrail and the convenience of high-speed rail connections to Europe, voters have grown to view major public works expenditures “as a good way to fix the economy, create jobs and inject capital into society,” while adding to the “nation’s strategic asset base.”
Despite the fiscal constraints, France is moving forward with expanding its already world-renowned high-speed rail lines (building out routes from Tours to Bordeaux and Bretagne to Pays de la Loire), constructing a high-speed airport rail link in Paris, approving a new motorway concession between Bordeaux and Bayonne and awarding contracts on a 60-mile (96 km) canal project connecting the Rhine- Scheldt waterway in Germany to the Seine.
Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany is one of the few countries in the world that can afford to back off infrastructure initiatives. Germany is benefiting from its already built-out infrastructure systems, which feature some of the world’s best rail (both freight and high-speed passenger) and road networks as well as efficient power grids and modern water facilities. As a result, the country does not require significant infrastructure expansions, except for projects to hasten the transition away from nuclear energy to renewable sources of power.
Spain’s big-budget infrastructure building binge is hitting the wall—EU bailouts are keeping the government afloat but require significant spending reductions, including the mothballing of many road and rail projects. Interviewees call for a “more proactive role from the government in developing infrastructure,” lamenting that “last year was an empty and lost year for the sector.”
Across Africa, substandard infrastructure constricts growth by as much as 2 percent annually. Estimates peg the continent’s annual infrastructure funding gap at anywhere from $30 billion to $90 billion. The lack of safe drinking water and a huge power deficit continue to hamper economic development.
Led by oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are spending rapidly on infrastructure to modernize and help diversify their heavily dependent, hydrocarbon-based economies and deal with parched desert climates. Other GCC members include Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.