There is currently a great deal of debate internationally, but above all in Europe and Italy, about the issue of infrastructure development. It is often said that there is a lack of infrastructure and that too little has been spent.
In reality, as the Infrastructure Manifesto drawn up by the Bocconi University, in partnership with Autostrade per l’Italia, shows, the infrastructure exists; the problem is how to ensure that the money we have is better spent, in order to more effectively develop this type of infrastructure.
The Manifesto sets out a series of points for consideration by policymakers, with a view to improving and developing a new infrastructure culture, in contrast with what has gone before.
To start with, it is incorrect to claim that there is no infrastructure. Infrastructure does exist. We need to look at focusing investment on new forms of initiative that do not necessarily involve tangible assets, such as the development of broadband, passenger transport, talent mobility, etc..
Secondly, we must focus attention on the role of the private sector. Given the lack of available financial resources, it is essential to attract private investment in order to ensure that we get the infrastructure we need in Italy and internationally.
The involvement of private investors does not occur automatically, however, and in order to effectively convince them to invest in infrastructure we need to establish a regulatory framework based on clear principles and rules. These should include, among other things, legal certainty, where the administrative and regulatory risks are, by necessity, assumed by the State.
It is not true that the infrastructure sector has to guarantee private investors a return. Such investors should expect to take on some exposure to risk, but this should be business risk, and not of a legislative or regulatory nature, which should be borne by the public sector.
Finally, one last consideration regarding the role of the authorities tasked with overseeing concessions and the development of infrastructure. It is essential that legal certainty also encompasses certainty of the procedures involved in understanding when the presence of private investors is capable of adding value, and that we do not necessarily assume that the private sector is the answer to a penniless State.