Global Study Tackles Challenges of U.S. Infrastructure Shortfall

Infrastructure drives any modern economy. Yet the effects of years of underinvestment in infrastructure are in plain sight across the U.S. The White House is due to announce plans to stimulate $1 trillion of investment in essential infrastructure, but what form will this investment take, and what role should government play?

To get a range of objective viewpoints, Forbes Insights conducted a global survey of infrastructure executives and government officials. Half of the respondents were from the U.S., with one-quarter each from the U.K. and Australia. The results are presented in a new report, Filling the Gap: A Realistic Look at Today’s Challenges and Opportunities in U.S. Infrastructure.

“The findings indicate a clear need to streamline permitting and regulatory approvals,” said Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes Media, “as well as for more collaboration between public and private sectors.”

“What we know, and what the findings of the research show, is that all sectors need to work together to strategically navigate the structural complexities and improve infrastructure investment,” said Michael Thorpe, Global Head of Infrastructure, Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Key findings:

  • Under-investing and a possible crisis: 64% of global infrastructure executives and government officials believe the U.S. is underinvesting in its infrastructure, and 36% believe a crisis may emerge, most likely within just six to 10 years.
  • Uncertainty remains around federal assistance: The current U.S. administration is proposing $1 trillion in “targeted federal investments,” but 49% believe that such efforts will be unsuccessful in addressing the nation’s infrastructure shortfalls.
  • Public is wary of infrastructure spending: 79% believe governments must do more to gain the trust of citizens. 68% say government officials need to do a better job of “selling” infrastructure investments.
  • The private sector needs to step up: 59% say private-sector providers also need to take steps to help “sell” investments, as well as to provide transparency and accountability.
  • Structural challenges remain: three out of four agree that more needs to be done to streamline permitting and environmental review processes in infrastructure.
  • Taxes are part of the equation: 58% say that state and local jurisdictions need to be more willing to raise taxes to address their infrastructure need.
  • Greater innovation is needed: 49% say that state and local jurisdictions need to be more willing to relax restrictions on privatization to enable the use of “P3” public/private partnership structures and the use of design/build concepts.
  • More ways to stimulate infrastructure investment: 71% say all government branches (state, local and federal) should be doing significantly more to attract foreign investment. 53% believe that public-sector project sponsors/regulators need to do more to offer tax credits, grants and incentives.

Source: Forbes