By 2050, the global population will rise from just over seven billion to a little under ten billion. Many countries will be hard pressed to meet the needs of their people. Already, there are considerable investment gaps in infrastructure. Looking ahead, no less than $3.3 trillion per annum will need to be invested worldwide in infrastructure projects by 2030 to keep pace with the population growth. That’s almost 4% global GDP. Governments rightly focused on stability and resilience in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and have been slow to pivot their attention to infrastructure investment. A decade on, it’s clear that the world has sorely missed this powerful lever for economic growth – stimulating demand, creating jobs and servicing communities. Effective infrastructure investment will help communities around the world. It is also a powerful political lever to pull in the battle against the rise of populism and nativist economic policy.
Governments talk a lot about infrastructure but are slow to act. Given the reticence of governments, business is taking a lead. B20 represents the entire G20 Business community with a single voice and is included in the G20 decision process. I’m fortunate that in my role as Co-Chair of its Financing Growth and Infrastructure Taskforce, I am able to work collaboratively with colleagues around the world to shape policy, informed heavily by the complex landscape Corrs helps its clients navigate.
So, how do we ensure the world’s infrastructure meets future global challenges?
In Hangzhou, the G20 committed to working on an open and resilient financial system, to fostering financial inclusion, to promoting certainty, to scaling green financing and to promoting infrastructure investment.
B20, the official business partner of the G20, has just made key recommendations in the area of financing growth and infrastructure. Among these, are proposals to boost infrastructure finance by developing and promoting bankable and investment-ready infrastructure project pipelines, enhancing the role of Multilateral Development Banks as catalysts for private sector investment and fostering green finance markets. B20 is also urging G20 to improve the reliability of legal and regulatory environments. Information about projects needs to be more accessible and a broader spectrum of financial instruments is required. It is a bold agenda.
Cross-border investment is impeded by the complexity and inconsistency of rules. This will only increase amid the rise of global protectionism. The lack of adequate risk protection against regulatory and political instability is matched only by the lack of effective dispute resolution mechanisms. Greater certainty and cooperation would facilitate cross-border projects. But amid all this uncertainty in the world, how do we go about this?
B20 is calling on G20 to reaffirm its support for international cooperation, while calling on international financial bodies to increase regulatory coherence. There needs to be greater transparency and a stronger commitment to facilitating the digitalization of finance. One way of promoting greater cross-border dialogue would be through the Financial Stability Board. Perhaps it could be tasked with establishing a model for this, providing the private sector and regulators with a platform for deeper engagement.
The G20 members can improve conditions for foreign direct investment by supporting a stable legal and regulatory environment – including greater tax certainty. There needs to be a greater focus on simplification which will prioritise economic impact and compliance capacity. The World Bank Group has a part to play here too - improving conditions for domestic and private investment in emerging markets. It’s clear a more balanced policy mix is required to deliver a stronger path for growth and financial stability.
Laying the foundations
The stability of financial markets has greatly improved since the GFC but global economic growth remains subdued. Both, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have called for a more balanced policy mix to deliver a stronger path for sustainable growth and financial stability and the private sector has a key role to play in this.
But if commerce is to play its part, governments must redouble their efforts to improve the commercial landscape - by facilitating private infrastructure investment, implementing more coherent and growth-enhancing financial regulation and supporting foreign direct investment. This way private investors can undertake the long-term, capital intensive investments complex projects demand, creating the right environment for business and economic growth that benefits us all.