Innovative delivery models needed
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic kicked lumps out of the South African economy, the country was on the back foot when it came to fixed investment projects and its pipeline of new investments. Public-sector spending was waning, despite huge backlogs and community protests over the lack of services, while the private sector lacked the policy certainty and confidence needed to proceed with major projects. Now that the virus has further undermined the financial capacity of government and its poorly managed State-owned entities to stimulate the economy through large-scale infrastructure programmes, any infrastructure-led recovery will require new delivery, funding and business models. Only through extreme transparency will South Africa attract investors motivated by fair returns over the project life cycle, rather than predatory opportunists and rent seekers. Another critical component lies in having a ready-made pipeline of projects that are immediately bankable, rather than merely aspirational. That pipeline must include not only projects directed at meeting the country’s most pressing infrastructure needs but those that can also be immediately funded through sustainable fiscal transfers, user-pay tariffs or a combination of the two. South Africa, therefore, needs to adopt a far more innovative and collaborative approach to the conceptualisation, financing, implementation, operations and maintenance of public infrastructure if it is to have any hope of truly using such investments to stimulate a recovery from the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19. These difficulties are partially reflected in the second edition of the Projects in Progress supplement.
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