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Global leaders discuss economic infrastructure at IMF conference

Global economic experts discussed infrastructure investment at Jack Morton Auditorium on Friday. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Global economic experts discussed infrastructure investment at Jack Morton Auditorium on Friday. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Hanna Willwerth.

Representatives from five countries analyzed the best way to close the gap for funding infrastructure projects at an International Monetary Fund meeting Friday.

The gap is projected to reach between $20 and $25 trillion by 2030. Facilitator and Al Jazeera America news anchor Ali Velshi asked panelists why there has not been more investment in infrastructure.

Participants’s answers focused on the potential of greater collaboration between the private and public sectors, the importance of strengthening state mechanisms, and the need to convince the public of the “usefulness and necessity” of infrastructure.

While you were in class, this is what the IMF was talking about:

1. Efficiency in infrastructure

All five speakers agreed on the importance of efficiency for both securing the success of infrastructure projects and the support of the civilian population.

Mitsuhiro Furusawa, the new deputy director of the IMF and the former Japan vice finance minister, said that poor leadership can lead to inefficiency in large-scale projects, causing investors and civilians to see those projects as “wasteful.” He said this leads to a loss of trust and accumulating debt.

Rajiv Lall, the managing director of Infrastructure Development Finance Company, said that for example, efficiency in India has greatly improved since the country’s government cracked down on corruption.

2. Public and private

Lall also said cash-strapped nations should see potential in combinations of public and private businesses when overcoming investment challenges.

“We should reimagine the relationship between the private and public sector. We have the public sector take on more risk of construction initially. Let them build electrical lines and plants and once operational, sell them down to private interests who assume risk of maintenance and can release coupon bonds based on a predictable cash flow,” Lall said.

Brazilian Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said a collaborative relationship between the public sector and capital markets can develop infrastructures and promote domestic growth by placing profitable projects to the private sector. He said this allows government agencies to focus on services such as education and health care.

3. Soft institutional infrastructure

All of the participants said a robust, transparent and reliable institutional framework was the foundation for improved investment in infrastructure.

Without the proper government institutions in place, panelists said no amount of funding would be able to overcome the infrastructure gap.

“[In India] the tendency of the government is to wash its hands of conflicts because it doesn’t want to get stoned, so they leave it to the courts which are already overwhelmed. This undermines confidence as bankers aren’t paid and projects languish and take forever,” Lall said.

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