While the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation spend an average of 1 percent of GDP on transportation infrastructure, that percentage hasn’t changed since 1995, according to recent data released by the International Transport Forum.
And investment in rail, road and inland waterway infrastructure isn’t equal around the globe.
Spending in North America reflects a constant GDP percentage of 0.6 percent, whereas most Western European countries average between 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent. Spain and Switzerland average infrastructure spending between 1.6 percent and 2 percent of GDP; until 2007, Spain and Portugal were spending close to 2 percent of GDP, but have dropped back down to the global average.
Investment is highest in Central and Eastern Europe, where historically, spending as a percentage of GDP had been relatively average. Spending reached 2 percent in 2009, and after a drop to 1.7 percent in 2010, climbed up to 1.8 percent in 2011.
The findings seem to point to outside factors, other than real transportation needs, that are driving infrastructure spending, according to the ITF’s Jari Kauppila.
“(The) level of transport spending may be guided by historical budget levels, institutional budget allocation procedures or budgetary constraints taking also into account needs in other sectors of the economy,” Kauppila said in a statement.
Broadly, the report shows rising investment in transition economies, especially in road infrastructure, but road spending declines with the level of per-capita GDP.
“As efficiency and productivity increase,” Kauppila said, “production becomes less transport intensive, potentially weakening the link between the GDP growth and transport demand and therefore infrastructure investments.” - Jon Ross