This is by way of a ‘heads up’ to coming posts on infrastructure decision making. In June last year, the Institute for Government in the UK produced the report “What’s wrong with infrastructure decision making: conclusions from six UK case studies”
Major conclusions were:
- There is no national strategy for infrastructure investment
- Government does not devote enough time to assessing early options and seizes apon preferred projects too soon
- The more ambitious the project, the more questionable the model
- A failure to understand project risk
- The difficulty of making decisions which create ‘concentrated losers’ (which can and do become vocal opposition groups)
- Inadequate post project evaluation means we do not learn for future projects
You can probably identify with all of these problems in your own work. The Institute draws on mega projects in the UK such as The Third Heathrow Runway, the High Speed 1 and 2 rail proposals and the ultra expensive Hinkley Point C nuclear energy plant proposal, amongst others. But you can think of large and small projects in your organisation, state or country.
Over the next six posts we will consider each of these and then look more closely at the way we make our infrastructure decisions here in Australia. We are all familiar with studies that argue that government decision making is abysmal and should be replaced with private sector decision making, which is assumed to be so much better ‘because it is focussed on profit making’. But when it comes to infrastructure, both economic and social infrastructure, ‘profit-making’ is not the goal. Here, we are really looking at ‘the social value of shared resources’ in the terms of Brett Frischmann.
It is important to bear this in mind as we consider these infrastructure decision making problems, no matter who is making them, for when an infrastructure decision is passed to the private sector to make, it is a public sector decision that makes this possible.
QUESTION: What other problems beside these can you identify?