Posted by Taz Chaponda
At a recent international conference on “Quality infrastructure and the Multilateral Development Banks”, the Director General of the Japanese Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) issued a stark reminder of the potential costs of “poor” infrastructure. He cited the Kobe highway disaster, when in 1995 a major highway in Japan collapsed following an earthquake. The Director-General explained that the highway was built in a rush and the poor construction works resulted in its collapse several decades later. He went on to discuss the expansion of power generation in the country’s early years of development through high-polluting plants that were subsequently phased out due to the negative impact on local populations.
Such examples remind us that even the richest nations went through a period of development where low quality infrastructure was pervasive, with very negative social and environmental consequences. Such issues are still common in many developing countries. This motivated the conference to explore what exactly is meant by “quality infrastructure”. Do countries really need this type or level of infrastructure, and if so, how should it be procured and paid for?