Last week, at the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda, members of the forum’s 88 “Global Agenda Councils” gathered to discuss the world’s most pressing economic and political challenges. Agenda councils are organized around issue areas or regions, and are made up of 15 to 20 experts or leaders from a cross section of viewpoints (academia, business, multilateral development banks, and the public sector) and from around the world.
Councils focus on a range of topics, including Poverty and Sustainable Development, Informed Societies, Women’s Empowerment, or on regions like Africa or South-East Asia. I was selected to participate in the Global Agenda Council for Infrastructure, which is newly established this year.
The infrastructure council is made up of senior level people from multilateral development banks, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the African Development Bank, financial services providers including KPMG and Prudential, and construction and engineering companies including Fluor, CG/LA Infrastructure, and CH2MHILL. The group is chaired by Rajiv Lall of the Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (IDFC) in India.
Some key issue buckets that emerged from the infrastructure council discussion:
- The public sector is key to the planning and delivery of infrastructure services.
- Public/public partnerships have a role to play, but in many places they are too complicated or are otherwise infeasible or impractical.
- The private sector, however, can play other roles in the delivery of infrastructure, if procurement and contracting systems and public sector capacity can be improved.
- Infrastructure funding deserves additional attention – too often, the discussion jumps directly to financing.
- Setting fair and equitable – but financially and environmentally sustainable – pricing for infrastructure is key.
- On the financing side, attention needs to be paid to addressing financing deal bottlenecks, through credit or sovereign enhancements, and to unlocking domestic financing sources (including pensions). Multilateral development banks have an important role to play.
The infrastructure agenda has agreed that over the next two years it will further engage in these three areas, and has divided up into small groups that can focus on particular issues. The group will meet in person again next year, and is planning interim meetings and conversations. It is also interfacing with other agenda council members, including the Long-Term Investing Council. As its work evolves, the infrastructure council will determine what kinds of outcomes or deliverables add the most value.
See my separate post about the Summit’s other main themes.
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