Beyond the Public Eye: High-Level Panel on Infrastructure To Unveil its Recommendations for G20 Leaders

Beyond the Public Eye: High-Level Panel on Infrastructure To Unveil its Recommendations for G20 Leaders
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Behind closed doors. iStock.
by Nancy Alexander

I. Overview

On November 3-4, when the G20 Leaders gather for their Summit in Cannes, they will review recommendations from a High-Level Panel (HLP) on Infrastructure, which proposes a global process for scaling up and streamlining public-private partnerships (PPPs) for large-scale, regional infrastructure projects. 

Although the French G20 Summit will focus on climate finance and the Mexican G20 Summit will focus on “green growth,” this top-down initiative is disconnected from these important efforts to promote sustainability and, instead, takes a “bigger is better” approach to development. The G20 HLP on Infrastructure is launching initiatives after insufficient consultation with affected governments and no apparent consultation with affected communities and parliaments. 

As noted in the G20 Development Action Plan, which was launched in at the Seoul Summit in November 2010, the initiative would rely on existing institutions, especially the multilateral development banks (MDBs). It would also launch new entities including:

• a G20 Infrastructure Facility, which will mobilize financing from private and public sources, including sovereign wealth funds,

• PPP units in localities around the world to help identify, close and implement deals. These units might report to a central, “apex” PPP institution which would coordinate their work. 

These mechanisms would be supported by a G20 “Fellowship Program,” which would mobilize private firms from G20 countries (such as financiers, concessionaires, contractors and operators) to help build the human capital, or the skill base, for the local PPP units. 

At its meeting in Cape Town on June 30-July 2, 2011, the G20 Development Working Group decided to develop a pipeline of bankable projects and that “tracking the development of individual projects could however help inform G20 Leaders on existing obstacles in developing or implementing such projects… and could provide the basis for concrete action by G20 members to helping sponsors overcome such bottlenecks.”

According to conversations with the staff of G20 sherpas, the HLP is recommending several regional projects, including:
• West Africa Power Pool (WAPP);
• Ethiopia and Kenya Power Systems Interconnection;
• Inga Hydropower (Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC));
• North-South Corridor which integrates trade-facilitation infrastructure in East and Southern Africa;
• Railways between Isaka, Tanzania and Kigali, Rwanda;
• Jordan Railway project (including freight links with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq);
• Europe-Middle-East/North Africa (MENA) solar project (Desertec);
• Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan and India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline;
• Regional Program for Scaling-up Clean Biomass Energy in the Greater Mekong Subregion;
• Pacific Corridor, a transportation/road network between Mexico and Panama. 

According to these sources, the selection criteria relate to: the extent to which the project brings about regional integration; extent of political support available; potential transformational impact of the project on sub-regions' growth; maturity of the project; institutional capacity; and potential attractiveness for the private sector. (See footnote 7, page 2.) Criteria appear to be lacking a range of sustainability elements such as: the carbon footprint or climate resilience; the rights of and impacts on communities and the environment; risk analyses including the implications for national and local budgets; and the priorities of affected populations. Moreover, the HLP assumes that PPPs represent the optimal approach to all large-scale infrastructure operations.

The role of the HLP and the dominance of private financiers in its composition create the impression that, hand-in-hand with the MDBs, the G20 has created a mechanism to design and implement an infrastructure agenda with minimal involvement by the governments and stakeholders of affected low-income countries much less any democratic debate or processes.

Click here to read Beyond the Public Eye (EN) (10 pages, pdf, 532KB)

Click here to read Más allá de la atención pública (ESP) (9 pages, pdf, 527KB)

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