I’m clearly not much of a prognosticator. In highlighting, with skepticism, the World Bank’s new Global Infrastructure Facility as a major G-20 Brisbane outcome on infrastructure, I missed far more of the actual agenda than I should have. In particular, the “forward work” of the Development Working Group (DWG) on infrastructure announced over the weekend deserves praise. It may not amount to a big push for infrastructure, but it does plant the seeds for more and better infrastructure investment in developing countries in the years ahead.
In particular, the DWG’s three new actions are aligned with three (of five) proposals from CGD’s own study group on infrastructure. Specifically, the new DWG report points to an indicators-based focus on the policy environment for infrastructure investment; more strategic focus in the use of public funds for project preparation; and exploration of engagement with institutional investors. The DWG did not take on our more sweeping proposals for a sovereign debt agenda and a commitment to more capital for the multilateral development banks, but three out of five isn’t bad!
Just the same, the quality of the new DWG commitments only reinforces my concerns about a two-track infrastructure agenda within the G-20, embodied in separate outcomes documents (here and here). If the G-20 wants a set of indicators to assess the policy environment for infrastructure investment, why limit that initiative to low-income countries? As with the prominent Doing Business report at the World Bank, wouldn’t it have more impact as a universal exercise?
The DWG report highlights a “strengthened” working relationship between itself and that other G-20 infrastructure working group. Maybe that’s a good sign, but it all sounds awfully bureaucratic for an informal group of nations.