By: Dave Stewart, Senior Business Consultant
Targeted spending on infrastructure needs to be a critical component of any nation’s growth strategy. Infrastructure spending not only creates jobs, but delivers long-term benefits by increasing productivity and competitiveness.
The province is emerging from several decades of slow growth and declining population. We are now experiencing robust population growth and high levels of private sector investment, particularly in potash and oil development. Much of Saskatchewan’s infrastructure was built in the 50’s and 60’s and is nearing the end of its usable life-cycle. Infrastructure providers like SaskPower, SaskWater and the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure are not only facing challenges replacing old lines, pipes and roadways, but are also juggling demands from unprecedented growth.
Public spending in infrastructure must be viewed as an investment in our economic and social-well-being, not as a cost to taxpayers. If wisely spent, these dollars are essential contributors to economic expansion, job creation and public safety and security. Infrastructure spending further stimulates private sector investment in housing, malls, restaurants, culture, and recreational facilities needed to accommodate a growing workforce and new households. There is a cycle effect where private investment is a driver of infrastructure investment, which encourages even more private investment.
Effective infrastructure planning, especially in a period of rapid growth, requires awareness that:
- Planning and decision-making must be based on well-defined economic, social and environmental goals that are supported by the public
- Infrastructure performance standards should be designed to satisfy our strategic goals
- Good planning anticipates the level of economic activity expected well into the future
- Successful planning takes an enterprise approach that includes all of the key public and private sector stakeholders
- Shared information and collaboration is needed to realistically examine options and optimize decision-making
- Funding decisions need to take into account market realities to ensure core infrastructure investments are recouped over time through user fees or other appropriate revenue sources
- And where public goods, such as roads, education and hospital care, are free for all to consume, some of the costs needs to be covered by tax dollars
Poor infrastructure planning, on the other hand, results in improper resource allocation, lost productivity and squandered tax dollars. To ensure we take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead, we must encourage smart infrastructure investments by all levels of government to ensure a future of strong economic and social development.