TVM Sector Perspective
How Sector Activities Impact People, Place, Planet and Profit
Chapter 5 - Infrastructure
The Centrality of Infrastructure
Enormous catch up is needed to get infrastructure in the “south” up to an acceptable basic level of performance. There needs to be investment not only to build new needed infrastructure, but also to catch up on maintenance.
There are many facets to infrastructure including (1) Roads; (2) Railroads; (3) Seaports; (4) Airports; (5) Housing; (6) Water; (6) Sewage and sanitation; (8) Hotels and restaurants; (9) Tourism destinations; (10) Public buildings; (11) Schools; (12) Health facilities; (13) Telephone and Internet; and, (14) Electricity.
The investment needed to upgrade infrastructure to “north” standards is not sustainable in the “south”. There needs to be incremental upgrading so that constraints caused by infrastructure are reduced. As economic performance improves, more upgrading becomes possible.
Most of the construction associated with infrastructure ought to be done by local construction enterprises ... and the planning of infrastructure initiatives should be based on the idea of creating the most value adding in the community as the infrastructure is built, and as much longer term benefit for the community when it is in use. The aim should also be to build infrastructure using the minimum of external resources, and the maximum of the resources that are available in the community.
Building infrastructure in the “south” should not be a totally uncontrolled profit bonanza for multinational construction corporations, with additional debt the only certainty from the projects.
Large scale modern infrastructure is expensive, and it is only in rich countries that the economy can justify making these very expensive investments. High cost infrastructure in a low productivity economy is a formula for financial crisis. Infrastructure investment to upgrade needs to be done in an incremental fashion.
This can be done working from the community level. When infrastructure is looked at from a community perspective, what is the most important to the community can easily be identified, and there can be an investment focus on what gets the best results for the community. This has the potential to increase the socio-economic return from infrastructure investment from something that will not justify investment to something that is gives an attractive socio-economic investment yield.
There has been a productivity revolution in modern ports, with almost total containerization and using powerful materials handling equipment. Modern cargo vessels are highly automated requiring small crews, and their cost is remarkably low, but they can only use ports with modern equipment. There is no reason why Iraq ports should not be to a very high international standard.
Iraq also must have terminals to handle its oil exports. These need to be world class, and there is no reason why they should not be.
Iraq needs to have a world class international airport, and there is no reason at all what it should not have one.
The country also needs to have a network of local airports to facilitate local air service development. Though air transport is expensive relative to land, there are times when speed is a priority, and there should be the infrastructure to handle this.
The main roads are a major factor in national productivity. The road network is very important for trade. The roads should not constrain trade, but serve to help it. Roads are important for all sorts of product shipment including livestock shipments
Every community I have visited has always made reference to the need for easier transport in the rainy season. All weather roads are valuable, but they need not be to European or US standards.
They just need to be usable when it is raining, instead of totally stalling traffic.
Construction and maintenance
There are some major contractors with the capacity for major construction and major maintenance of roads. There needs to be a strategy to upgrade and maintain the whole system and not just a privileged little bit of the system.
It would be best to make many small interventions rather than a few large interventions. The country needs to have balanced development all over the country, not just in a single area or corridor. The country needs employment opportunity everywhere, not only on a single axis of the country. Furthermore, the country’s internal capacity is better suited to doing small works successfully than single large projects.
The road sector has the potential to be a major employment source for the next several years. This can be done not only by using “labor intensive work methods” but merely by doing the work using local capacity to the maximum extent possible. Employment is needed not only at the laborer level but also among trained engineers and local contractors, some of whom have had important international experience.
Telecom and Internet
In general terms, the telecommunications infrastructure in the global “south” is poor.
Iraq should embrace the idea of very low cost communications as a way to encourage development, but Iraq has not yet embraced the telecom sector in this way.
An Internet infrastructure can be built in coordination with the telecom ... the underlying Internet backbone uses much that in common.
The infrastructure for water is mainly 'out of sight' and therefore mostly 'out of mind'. Nevertheless the water infrastructure is very important.
Relative to what it should be the world's water infrastructure is in bad shape.
In developing countries water is a constraint, and water infrastructure inadequate
In developed countries much of the water infrastructure is old and in need of heavy maintenance and upgrading.
In many cities around the world rapid urbanization means that the water infrastructure is too small for the existing population.