Private investors were urged to increase their spending on public infrastructure amid warnings the US was being “killed” economically by its unwillingness to boost investment in the sector.
Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell criticised public and political opposition to public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the infrastructure asset class warning the US was literally “crumbling.”
Speaking at the Terrapinn Investing in Infrastructure Assets conference in New York today, he said the country must “win” the battle to boost spending on public infrastructure or face losing economic ground to emerging markets such as India and China.
“We are getting killed on the economy, we are getting killed in terms of public safety, we are obviously losing quality of life and the environment suffers because we are unwilling to invest. We suffer as a country,” he said.
Rendell, who has formed an infrastructure coalition with New York and California governors Michael Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger calling for more federal investment, faced fierce opposition to his call for the Pennsylvania Turnpike to be leased to a private operator last year. The plan was later dropped owing to the public outcry with a compromise bill now making its way through the state legislature aimed at increasing tolls on the turnpike and introducing tolls on another busy thoroughfare, the I-80.
Rendell told delegates at the conference $1.6 trillion was needed just to upgrade existing US infrastructure to high standards, yet only 25 percent of all spending on public assets came from the federal level.
As a percentage of GDP, the US spent 2.5 percent of GDP on public infrastructure compared to sub-Saharan Africa’s 4.7 percent, India’s eight percent, China’s nine percent and Spain’s 10 percent.
Calling in particular for high-quality, high-speed rail links into cities, Rendell added that with rising fuel bills: “Americans are ready to ride. This is the time.
“American infrastructure is crumbling … This is a national battle and it’s one I think we must win.”