Despite bright economic prospects, most emerging Asian countries—China, India, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—continue to suffer from underdeveloped infrastructure. In India, for example, electricity generation is 16 percent to 20 percent short of what is needed to meet peak demand, thanks to persistent underinvestment and poor maintenance. In Indonesia, infrastructure investments dropped from 5 percent to 6 percent of GDP in the early 1990s to 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP for much of the last ten years. We estimate that the consequent deterioration in energy, transport, housing, communications, and water facilities has restrained economic growth by 3 to 4 percentage points of GDP.
We believe that situation is about to change. Across the Asian region as a whole, we calculate that around $8 trillion will be committed to infrastructure projects over the next decade to remedy historical underinvestment and accommodate the explosion in demand.
Traditionally, most Asian infrastructure projects have been funded by governments or domestic banks. Foreign investors were mostly excluded. Those that were allowed to participate faced severe restrictions, including complex regulatory and legal regimes, uneven workforce quality, and occasional political interference.
In the wake of the financial crisis, however, we have started to see signs that global private capital is increasingly welcome. The combined effects of increased stimulus spending and reduced tax receipts have increased deficits, with the result that restrictions on foreign investment are easing and a growing number of projects are being carried out under public–private partnerships (PPP). We estimate that over the next ten years fully $1 trillion of the $8 trillion of projected infrastructure projects will be open to private investors under PPPs.
The questions for owners of global capital are how to identify the opportunities, how to mitigate the main risks, and how to develop appropriate entry strategies.