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Survey: Politics stifles infrastructure opportunities

Lack of funding and politicisation of priorities are the two biggest impediments to greater infrastructure investment, according to a KPMG survey. The poll coincides with a recent call by US President Barack Obama to ‘take some of the politics out of infrastructure’.

Public sector officials involved in the delivery of infrastructure projects want two things from their respective governments: less politics and more money, according to a survey commissioned by accounting firm KPMG.

The survey of nearly 400 unelected officials found that 56 percent viewed lack of funding as the biggest impediment to greater infrastructure investment in their countries, followed by “politicisation” of project priorities, at 33 percent.

Obama: urging less politics
in infrastructure

Among the survey’s 116 US respondents, those concerns were even higher, with 69 percent and 37 percent, respectively, expressing concern about funds and politics.

The findings come less than a week after US President Barack Obama urged Congress to “take some of the politics out of infrastructure”.

“And what I mean by that is right now, a lot of decisions are made about projects based on who has got the most powerful congressman or senator,” Obama said as he unveiled $8 billion in stimulus funding for high-speed rail projects in Tampa, Florida on 28 January. “And what we're hoping to do is [have] at least some of the decision-making based a little bit more on what are the engineering plans that determine this is the best project to go forward?”

Asked how infrastructure projects can best be “de-politicised”, respondents in KPMG’s survey cited improvements in cost-benefit analysis (38 percent), transparency (33 percent) and public-private partnerships, or PPP procurement processes (32 percent) as their top three concerns.

I think there's consensus we need to improve the process by which we deliver projects

Richard Lee

“I take that to mean there needs to be more thought about developing business cases around the projects that include all the benefits and all the costs and I think PPPs are a way to do that,” said KPMG Partner Richard Lee, who heads the firm’s US infrastructure team.

KPMG, which counts the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the State of Michigan and the Texas Department of Transportation among its public sector clients, conducted a similar survey among private sector providers. In that survey, 35 percent of US respondents found politicisation of infrastructure to be the top impediment to greater investment. 

“I think there’s consensus we need to improve the process by which we deliver projects,” Lee said.