What’s next for infrastructure? An introduction

Under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war raging in Ukraine, the world has witnessed unprecedent disruption. When looked through the lenses of infrastructure, the impact of this double-edged crisis will be long-lasting and wide-ranging. At the same time, the industry faces additional transformative trends that must be taken into consideration, such as the green and digital transitions, increasing urbanization, and climate change. This special issue grows out of the need to open a constructive debate on the current and the future state of infrastructure and to provide a groundwork necessary to understand the new dynamics that are unfolding.

Throughout the articles presented in this issue, one thing emerges clearly. This changing global context requires measures to align current infrastructure project plans with long-term development objectives. Measures related to financing, social and environmental impacts, international governance and partnership.

Paolo Mulassano and Fulvio Bersanetti cast lights on the advantages that public-private partnerships have when compared with other financing models. In a context of strained infrastructure investments, tax-fuelled budget will not be sufficient to close the infrastructure gap. To fill the gap between infrastructure needs and infrastructure investments, a union of intents between public and private sector is necessary. Through a PPP model, projects tend to be delivered on time and on budget, they can ensure better risk management, better value-for-money efficiencies, and good balance of interests.

Can and should the US compete with China in global infrastructure financing?  By exploring the two powers’ latest endeavours in the global scenario: China’s BRI and the US’ Blue Dot Network and B3W, Maria Adele Carrai explains how infrastructures are a central part of a changing global scenario. In order to support economic development and growth, especially in developing countries, it is necessary to find synergies and common grounds between the US and China’s vision.

Improving infrastructure requires much more than capital expenditure.  Milindo Chakrabarti’s article encourages the promotion of a more systemic convergence between economic infrastructure investments and social innovation. The idea is to balance return on investment, calculated using the technical norms of financial accounting, with social returns on investment as the centre point of project appraisal, design, monitoring and evaluation. The goal is to provide maximal utility to the largest number of people by reducing inequality, improving inclusion, and building a more equitable world.

Finally, the local dimension should not be overlooked. To properly unlock the economic potential of infrastructure investments, countries should emphasis the local dimension in their investment strategies, providing subnational entities with the right tools and frameworks. In his article, Nicola Bilotta identifies policy mixes that could enable local governments to positively affect the overall effectiveness of local interventions.

According to the contributors of this special issue, infrastructure planners will then need to invest in projects that are designed with the flexibility to respond to future trends and challenges.  Infrastructures that focus more on leveraging social outcome, and on “levelling-up” capacities for local communities. Infrastructures that are sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and that are designed through an accurate level of coordination between all stakeholders involved.


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About Valeria Lauria

Valeria Lauria

Valeria is currently a Boya Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Peking University. Valeria research interests lie at the intersection of international relations and international political economy, with a particular focus on development financing and the rise of China in the global context. She received her Ph.D. from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies and the International Institute of Social Studies. She holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and an MA in International Relations from the University of Roma Tre in Italy. During her PhD, she held visiting positions at the Tsinghua University in China and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. In the past, she also served in different capacities at several international organisations and research institutes which include, among others, the OECD, UNDP-Ethiopia, UNIDO-China, UNICEF Bolivia and Operation Asha India. Valeria has published her work in peer reviewed journals and presented her papers at conferences and workshops held in Italy, the Netherlands, the U.S., China and Ethiopia.

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