British Infrastructure and the Gradual Return of the state

The state of British infrastructure is the source of almost continuous study and criticism. There is now a host of new demands in water, energy, transport and communications which require a step change in investment. The Coalition government has made a series of reforms—to planning, finance, and the setting of priorities—which have been drawn together in National Infrastructure Plan statements. A number of high-profile and large-scale projects have been advanced. This paper sets out the evolution of these policy interventions and explains why government involvement is critical to their success. It documents the gradual return of the state, as part of a process of underpinning the investment costs, in the provision of credible contracts, and in closing the gap between public and private costs of capital. It suggests that rather than pursue infrastructure policy as a set of priority projects, greater use of regulated asset bases and attention to the time-inconsistency problem would better achieve the overarching objectives.

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