Anyone who has tried to construct a tower from a deck of cards knows the base layer is key to stop it from collapsing. When it comes to governments, infrastructure is that foundation from which further benefits and services can develop.
In light of Covid-19, countries have looked to build infrastructure beyond just the national health crisis. Ministers across Asia spoke at the recent Asia Infrastructure Forum 2021, discussing which public services their respective nations plan to invest in.
Here are three infrastructure projects in India, the Philippines, and Singapore. They balance improved citizen services while maintaining principles of climate sustainability.
India’s waterway development
India plans to improve its freight corridor, shared finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The country will transport cargo via inland waterways instead of rail and road.
This will cut energy use, as moving on water consumes less fuel, she shared. Although ground transport may be quicker, waterways move four times as much cargo for every one liter of fuel, said the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The infrastructure development comes after “decades of underinvestment” made shipping waterways “unusable”, said the IFC. This change will allow for more diverse transport, leading to decongestion of other transport networks, the Minister shared.
India will also focus on building infrastructure for renewable energy, roads, airports and ports. She shared that the country’s infrastructure will receive US$1.5 trillion dollars in investment by the end of 2025.
India is setting up a new bank to secure the funds for these investments. The Development Fund Institution aims to collect US$67 billion in three years, which will be used exclusively for infrastructure spending, Minister Sitharaman noted.
The managing board of the bank will decide which of the 7,000 planned infrastructure projects in India will receive priority funding and which ones will have to wait, wrote Business Insider.
Multilateral institutions, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, financial institutions, and banks will all be eligible to invest in this fund, Sitharaman shared. It is expected that the bank will be ready to operate from the last quarter of 2021, she said.
Transport in the Philippines
The Philippines has the second worst traffic congestion in the world, according to CNN. Luzon, the country’s biggest island, is working on an infrastructure project to speed up traffic, shared Mark Villar, the Secretary of Public Works and Highways.
The Luzon Spine Expressway Network aims to reduce the time taken for travel between northern Iloco and southern Bicol, from 20 hours to just nine hours, Business Mirror explained.
The project will increase the size of the expressway network from 300 kilometres to almost 1000 kilometres, said Villar. It could also boost development in remote countryside regions, he noted.
The Philippines ensures that money is well spent by making every infrastructure project brings an acceptable minimum rate of return, said Villar. This means they must see a minimum level of benefits from the project in order to justify the risks involved in taking it on.
The recent administration has increased GDP spending on infrastructure from two per cent to five per cent, said Villar. It has seen a “209 per cent increase in actual project accomplishment and disbursements”, creating 6.5 million jobs along the way, he shared.
Singapore’s waterway construction
Singapore is undertaking an infrastructure project to create an improved water tunnel system, said Indranee Rajah, the Second Minister for National Development. Rainwater collection points used to be spread across the island, meaning increased costs, she explained.
The new project will move water collection to a single point. From there, it can be recycled into usable water, wrote The Straits Times. The total land freed up by this development is equivalent to 214 football fields – crucial in the land-scarce island.
By relying on gravity to move water, the system will use less energy, Indranee shared. They were inspired by Roman aqueducts, she said, which used gravity to transport fresh water into populated areas.
The total cost of the project is expected to be SG$10 billion (US$738 million), with more than 200,000km of renovations expected to be completed by 2025, reported The Straits Times.
Singapore had to borrow SG$90 billion for infrastructure development, according to The Straits Times. The nation isn’t typically fond of borrowing money, Indranee noted, but the project’s impact could last 100 years or more.
Asia is relying on infrastructure investments to bring economic and social benefits. As nations build up their bridges and pave their roads, governments have the unique opportunity to consider how they can create a sustainable future.