Countries have tough choices to make over investing in different types of infrastructure. Do schools come first? What about irrigation and other agricultural needs so that populations can be fed? And they can't ignore the importance of roads, bridges, and other transportation in facilitating trade and markets for economic growth. Then there's energy, communication, and more.
There will always be competing and urgent needs for both public and private infrastructure, and the age and growth rate of the population helps determine the priorities of those needs. For instance, a young, rapidly growing population will have great demand for educational infrastructure than one experiencing slowing or negative population growth. Planners know this, but demographic information is rarely admitted in an explicit manner into high-level financial planning.
One reason is that demographic data are often scarce or too old to be useful. In many African countries, even where censuses have been conducted regularly, the results are never released. Another reason is that the priority-setting is often implicit, driven by the voices that achieve the greatest political volume.
Demographics and Infrastructure will be the focus of our December 2008 lecture, People Need Places and Things: The Impact of Populations on Physical Infrastructure, by Peter Heller, AGIP Chair of International Economics, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. For current information on lecture dates, times and locations, and to RSVP, see the Lecture Series Overview.