Highlights from Global Infrastructure Hub CEO Chris Heathcote’s briefing

What is the GI Hub?

We are a private sector entity, not for profit, with a board structure.  We are financed by grant funding, with the aim to help governments unlock private funding for public infrastructure.

How do Public-Private Partnerships work?

The strength behind a PPP is that you are creating investment certainty by putting forward a structure which is generally accepted and understood, and backed by legal frameworks which are again generally accepted and understood. The cost of a PPP really depends on how efficient you are in using the structure, but also how you choose to use the structure. So, you don’t have to enter into long term finance for the whole life of the PPP if you don’t want to, if that financial cost is considered to be a concern. There are a number of different ways to use PPPs.  

We are there to advise governments to make sure that when they go into that negotiation they don’t go in and say “what would you, the private sector, like to do for us?”. They go in and say “here’s the service I want, this is the contract, these are the risks, and then we can negotiate from that point”. We are trying to empower them to do that negotiation better.

What is the impact of political cycles on infrastructure planning?

You can get these screeching U-turns between different governments. I quite like the model that they put in place here (Australia), and the model that the UK is putting in place which is similar.

It is to have an independent body, Infrastructure Australia, that looks at infrastructure need and publishes a report on an annual basis saying this is what infrastructure need should be and that includes individual projects. Now the government doesn’t have to sign up to those projects … but effectively every time the government changes if they decide they want a different set of projects they at least have to justify why they are cancelling projects to create the next project.

You can’t take politics out of infrastructure and you can’t take infrastructure out of politics.

What role is technology playing in the infrastructure industry?

Technology is a great unknown in infrastructure at the moment and it’s a great risk in infrastructure at the moment. If you look at decision making that’s going on in investors they are becoming increasingly interested in two areas, redundancy of stranded assets and sustainability. They recognize that if they are going to get 30 years of dividends from their projects it’s best they take a project which works, fits with the local population, and provides for a need. On the technology side, … if you’re building a road are you building a road that you still see important and useful if everyone is using driverless car? Is it a road that’s going to be overtaken by some sort of technology?

What is GI Hub’s new online tool –  InfraCompass?

One of the concerns or difficulties for a country is working out why it’s not necessarily succeeding in terms of infrastructure delivery. The basis of InfraCompass is enabling countries to see what other countries are doing well in infrastructure delivery.

InfraCompass, which is an online platform, allows you to go in and look at the performance of that country in six categories key to infrastructure delivery.

This allows you to go in and look at your own country and then compare to five or six other countries. If a country wants to spend money on policy, it can look at InfraCompass and it will tell them where that policy dollar is best spent.

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