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Developing infrastructure services

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10th-Jan-2017       
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Laurence Carter :
One of my favorite songs when I was growing up was John Lennon's "Imagine." A few months ago, UNICEF created a project around it to highlight the plight of millions of refugee children. Now, as the year draws to a close, I couldn't help but imagine a world with high-quality, affordable, sustainable, well-maintained, infrastructure services for everyone.
I'm not sure a video of infrastructure projects set to "Imagine" would fire people up as much as the UNICEF video does. But there is value in reflecting on what we have accomplished in 2016, and what we might hope for and imagine in 2017, to bring this vision closer to reality for millions of people.
2016 has been a special year - and a busy one - in terms of infrastructure. Here are some highlights:
The first Global Infrastructure Forum, co-hosted by all multilateral development banks in partnership with the United Nations. This was the result of 193 nations agreeing (imagine that!) on the need for a collaborative platform for infrastructure at the 2015 Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa;
The World Bank - Singapore Infrastructure Finance Summit, which brought public and private stakeholders together to discuss public and private infrastructure investment;
The global launch of the International Infrastructure Support System, an online PPP project preparation platform now supporting 63 projects from 21 countries;
The global launch of the PPP Certification Program endorsed by the multilateral development banks (MDBs) - which is helping PPP practitioners around the world to learn more;
The Benchmarking PPP Procurement 2017 report, offering improvements that can help governments prepare, procure, and manage Public-Private Partnerships (PPP);
Knowledge platform partnerships such as the PPP Knowledge Lab  which showcases a fine example of MDBs' collaboration to offer a wealth of information;
And in case you missed the massive online courses offered on PPPs, you can now find the English course here, and the French course here.   
This year has also seen an explosion of interest, by readers and contributors, in our Public-Private Partnerships blog, which provides a platform for infrastructure and PPP experts from around the world to share their knowledge and experience. We are grateful to all who have contributed and look forward to host current and new bloggers in 2017.
Yes, 2016 has been a fruitful year for infrastructure. So what do we imagine for the coming year? I can hear John Lennon encouraging me as I think up my wish list for 2017. Imagine a world:
Where more pension funds can make long-term investments in infrastructure assets, yielding steady revenues to pay pensions;
Where citizens can see the contracts between governments and private infrastructure providers online and have access to transparent performance information;
Where investors can see a list of potential infrastructure projects;
Where projects are prepared by governments with checks to see that they fit strategically, environmentally and socially, provide good value for money, are manageable fiscally, make commercial sense and where there is technical oversight capacity;
Where governments take the time to engage stakeholders as part of the design of projects.
All these imaginings would result in better, cheaper, higher-quality sustainable infrastructure that reaches a lot more people. You get the idea…
The thing is, most of these outcomes are achievable and don't need huge amounts of additional money.  Instead, they involve adopting standards and protocols - particularly upstream - mostly taken by governments, to "de-risk" their countries by adopting decent legal and regulatory protections, prioritizing potential infrastructure projects and programs, and ensuring transparency. Data and tools to do that exist. All that's needed is wider adoption.
And with that thought to ponder on, I wish you all the best for 2017…
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