A bridge to prosperity
Professor Ennio Cascetta is currently Coordinator of the Technical Unit for Infrastructure Strategic Planning at the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. Minister Graziano Delrio chose him as the key person in charge of launching a new approach to the planning of public spending on infrastructure.
What is changing in Italian infrastructure policy?
Ennio Cascetta (EC): The Italian Government is trying to transform the process of infrastructure planning, financing and construction.
This transformation is mainly a cultural challenge. It is our strong belief that infrastructure projects only can be approved if they are truly useful to the country: this idea must prevail.
To do so, works must undergo a strict ex-ante evaluation, as happens in most advanced countries. This also requires changes in the law, and the Government has started some very significant reforms during recent months.
We changed the Public Procurement Code, we decided to give Italy a General Plan for Transport and Logistics and we set rules for resource allocation decisions in the field of infrastructure.
Simplification, transparency, quality and fighting corruption are key priorities of our reform.
Our aim is to improve accessibility to Italy’s territories, Europe and the Mediterranean Area; to improve the quality of life and the competitiveness of urban areas; to support sustainable and safe mobility; and to promote policies for the industrial sector.
Did Italy really need such radical reforms?
E.C.: Yes. Before starting, we made an effort to understand what did not work out well in Italy during the last 15 years.
One of the most problematic issues in the Italian infrastructure system lies in the very long periods between project approval and completion of the work.
This creates an environment where higher costs and corruption become more likely, and where people tend to perceive infrastructure as an intolerable cost. Works that appeared to be useful 15 years ago are not anymore: this happens, too.
Today, with a worsening lack of resources and increasing mobility needs, we cannot afford any waste. We have to be sure that the works needed to relaunch the Italian economy are completed quickly, and that the money invested is properly spent.
What are the reform’s next steps?
E.C.: We have put a very complex process into place, and the implementation phase will require our full attention. We will soon publish national guidelines for evaluating infrastructure projects.
Together with the companies managing the rail and road network, and with ports, airports, regions, municipalities, and all potential actors, we will launch a new phase of infrastructure evaluation, which, we hope, will reaffirm Italy’s credibility, attract investment and boost our country’s competitiveness.
Meanwhile, we are ready to start working on the General Plan for Transport.
This will be a very broad and inclusive process: we want it to generate a cultural debate on the role of infrastructure in the economic system and in the pursuit of a higher quality of life for everyone.
For more information please contact Bill Banks
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This article is excerpted from the November 2016 edition of Citizen Today. See also these featured articles:
- Stronger cities, better lives by Bill Banks
- Giving the city a future by Bernhard Lorentz
- Inside the mind of the citizen by Lucille Halloran
- Brexit: where next? by Matt Ross
- Strong supply chain saving lives by T Koshy
- How to avoid time and cost overruns by Fiona J Macfarlane
- Bringing risk into the infrastructure mainstream by Amal-Lee Amin