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Infrastructure blog

Reflections on the need for long-term and strategic approaches to infrastructure planning

10 December 2019

Following the launch of the Enabling Better Infrastructure programme, Jagoda Egeland from the International Transport Forum discusses the importance of taking a long-term and strategic approach to national infrastructure planning.

Reflections on the need for long-term and strategic approaches to infrastructure planning
Jagoda Egeland

Infrastructure discussions at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) often focus on infrastructure investment as a means of fostering economic growth, addressing regional disparities, and delivering more mobile and inclusive societies.

While all voices in the debate agree that the provision of adequate infrastructure is a very important component of a country’s success, the debate on how much and what kind of infrastructure investment should be provided continues.

At the International Transport Forum at the OECD we help our 60 member countries create better transport policies. We assist ministries of transport with improving both the infrastructure planning framework and the methodologies used to assess the positive and negative impacts of different infrastructure projects. We do so by bringing stakeholders together to discuss what works well, what doesn’t work, and what constitutes best practice.

Across the OECD, infrastructure planning strategies in the transport sector share many similarities. The starting point of most of the transport investment plans is a set of national objectives that they should support. The priority project lists most often rely on bottom-up, project-by-project assessments of costs and benefits. The assumptions underpinning these assessments are predominantly based on estimates of national population and economic growth rates, rather than on detailed place-based assessments. Finally, stakeholder consultation is usually an important part of the process.

To unlock the full potential of the economy and spend scarce resources more effectively, many of our members are now developing more comprehensive, long-term strategic approaches to infrastructure planning.

One important feature of these new approaches is a cross-sectoral perspective of independent planning agencies, such as Infrastructure Australia or the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission. Such a perspective can help reduce systemic risks, build support for infrastructure plans, and account for interdependencies between different sectors of economic infrastructure. This is a crucial consideration in ensuring that infrastructure networks are developed as a system rather than a set of disparate assets.

We are delighted to be one of ICE’s partners for the Enabling Better Infrastructure programme and hope that other sectors will learn from our experience of how transport networks can be better planned and managed. We also hope that ministries of transport globally will use the programme’s resource hub to learn from other sectors. The programme sets out 12 principles underpinning best practice from around the world in relation to prioritising and planning economic infrastructure networks.

Crucially, it also provides examples of tangible pathways that have been taken by different countries to achieve better infrastructure outcomes. As such, the programme sheds light on how better infrastructure can be achieved not only in theory, but also in practice.

We look forward to supporting this work by taking part in follow up discussions and roundtable meetings during 2020, plus supporting the ongoing development of the resource hub.

Resource hub

ICE has convened partners and organisations around the world to help administrations better plan infrastructure in order to deliver improved social and economic outcomes. We will continue to update the resource hub as further case studies are shared with us and offer governments and decision makers access to best-practice examples.

In case you missed it...

If you have case studies, examples or ideas – or if you’d like to learn more and contribute to the programme, please contact us

  • Jagoda Egeland, Advisor to the Secretary-General, International Transport Forum, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)  at International Transport Forum