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Gavin English, IMC Worldwide

Infrastructure for economic and social development, and a more sustainable world

The need for infrastructure development is the great global challenges of our time. For a better, greener, safer and more sustainable world the infrastructure community must unite, says ACE vice chairman Gavin English.

The need for infrastructure development is the great global challenges of our time. There is an essential and growing demand for infrastructure to address critical global issues such as climate change, energy demands, water and food shortages, mass urbanisation and economic and social development. To satisfy this need effectively and deliver lasting economic and social development the world needs the collective leadership, experience and creativity of the infrastructure community.

There is clear evidence that Investment in infrastructure leads to the growth of a countries economy and the improved wellbeing of its people. The McKinsey Global Institute recently estimated that over the next fifteen year the world needs to spend $57 trillion on infrastructure to realise global economic growth ambitions. In the UK alone infrastructure spending may need to run at £40bn to £50bn each year up to 2030 to meet demand.

"For a better, greener, safer and more sustainable world the infrastructure community must unite at national, regional and global level to deliver the global sustainable infrastructure we need."

Around the world Investment in infrastructure has always played a leading role in economic development, from the roads and aqueducts of ancient Rome to the railway boom in Britain in the mid 19th century. Basic infrastructure – roads, railways, airports, for energy generation and supply, water supply, sanitation, etc. underpins sustainable development and economic transformation of emerging economies.

A few months ago KPMG published a list that showcased 100 of the most ambitious and exciting infrastructure projects from around the world. All the projects listed will contribute to the economic growth in the countries in which they are based and improve the lives of millions of people.

Infrastructure investment is needed in developing countries to expand: transport systems (road, rail, airports, ports, waterways, etc.); energy generation, supply and transmission; water collection and supply; sanitation systems; communications systems (telecommunications, internet, etc.). Such investments will lead to very rapid economic and social development.

In developed countries the economic and social improvements are not quite so pronounced because they are starting from a higher position in terms of the national economy and social conditions but there are still clear improvements. In particular at times of recession or economic downturn when investment in infrastructure is often used to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

"The human suffering and financial costs of the impacts of climate change are enormous, affecting both rich and poor countries alike."

Climate change is a reality and the consequences are devastating – rising sea levels, decreasing fresh water resources, extreme droughts, storms and flooding, etc. The human suffering and financial costs of the impacts of climate change are enormous, affecting both rich and poor countries alike. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans causing over $125 billion of damage, killing over 1000 people and displacing whole communities.

But it is developing countries that lack the infrastructure and resources to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change and it is the world’s poorest people that suffer more than others when disasters hit such as the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, Bhola cyclone 1970, Huang He floods of 1930, etc. 

Contributing to climate change are the critical levels of atmospheric CO2 levels which will continue to grow with increasing global energy demand unless action is taken. Appropriate sustainable infrastructure is needed to: mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change; and to develop and deploy clean energy technologies to energy efficiency to make substantial and long term reductions in global greenhouse gas emission.

"Infrastructure investments can also help improve peace and security by enabling, sustaining and enhancing societal living conditions"

Infrastructure investments can also help improve peace and security by enabling, sustaining and enhancing societal living conditions and the welfare of people in developing countries. Infrastructure connects communities and countries with market, health and education facilities, gives access to clean water, sanitation and power, and improves livelihoods and generates employment creating the conditions for lasting peace.

For a better, greener, safer and more sustainable world the infrastructure community must unite at national, regional and global level to deliver the global sustainable infrastructure we need. We must all collaborate and take a lead in the financing, planning, designing, construction, operating, managing and maintenance of major future global infrastructure programmes.

 

Gavin English is managing director of IMC Worldwide and a vice chairman of ACE