Global business leaders push for infrastructure funding overhaul

Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:54am EDT
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By Jane Wardell

SYDNEY (Reuters) - International business leaders are lobbying the Group of 20 bloc of advanced and developing countries to tackle a $57 trillion shortfall in global infrastructure, pressing for changes to funding rules they say would help big projects move ahead.

The Business 20 Group, which is holding a summit in Sydney this week, criticized cumbersome global rules that make it hard for large pension funds and insurance companies to invest in major infrastructure projects.

Relaxing those rules and smoothing out approval and procurement processes that, in some countries, can result in a project taking 10 years to get the green light will be critical if the G20 is to meet its ambitious growth targets, B20 leaders said.

"Infrastructure investment is one of those critical levers you can pull that can drive into economic growth relatively quickly," said David Thodey, Telstra Corp Ltd chief executive and spokesman for the G20 on infrastructure issues.

The B20, set up in 2010 to give policy recommendations on behalf of the international business community to the G20, has estimated that at least $57 trillion will be needed to finance infrastructure projects worldwide through 2030 to meet the demands of global economic growth.

Despite that, Thodey said, there was no priority list of global infrastructure projects, making it difficult for potential investors to know where to start.

G20 finance ministers agreed in Sydney in February to draw up "real and effective plans to lift the global economy" by more than 2 percent "above the trajectory implied by current policies" over five years. They meet again in Australia in September.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has criticized progress towards the 2 percent goal as too slow. "Some countries like China and increasingly Germany have been very supportive of our goals, but there's more to be done," he told ABC radio.   Continued...

G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors begin their annual meeting in Sydney, February 22, 2014.   REUTERS/Jason Reed