Crumbling roads, dilapidated buildings, rickety bridges, and flickering power all sound like part of the setting for a post-apocalyptic novel; however, they are also elements of a failing infrastructure. When considering the most paramount issues facing the nation, or even the state, infrastructure is not usually an issue that most people consider, and it is not an issue that many find compelling or exciting. However, a robust infrastructure is a leading factor in having a healthy economy, and the state of the infrastructure has a large impact on the entire nation. Unfortunately, the United States’ infrastructure is very flawed, and funding for infrastructure is often inadequate or misused. Scholars and politicians have proposed various plans to improve the nation’s framework, and, likely, a combination of these plans, coupled with public support, could result in a much stronger infrastructure. In a series of posts, I plan to address topics such as the importance of having a good infrastructure, problems with the infrastructure at both the state and federal level, and proposed solutions to these problems.
Why is a good infrastructure necessary?
When considering the word “infrastructure,” many people think of roads and transportation. While roads are an integral part of a nation’s framework, many other elements are involved in composing the infrastructure as well. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines infrastructure as “the basic equipment and structures that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly.” When applying this definition to the United States, or other nations, infrastructure includes buildings, roads, the power grid, bridges, airports, access to clean water, and communication systems. Having a stable and well-functioning infrastructure is vital to a nation’s growth; a good infrastructure leads to a more productive economy and a more able workforce.
Nations with a stronger infrastructure will have a more robust economy. A good framework makes existing firms more competitive and provides economic incentives to companies or nations looking to invest in a region. A firm is more likely to locate in a region with an efficient transportation system and an effective communications system than a region where roads are crumbling and there isn’t any access to Internet. This can be seen by comparing the economies of China and India.
India has chosen to focus its economy on services rather than manufacturing, and the nation has neglected its infrastructure. For example, the country’s power grid is overworked, its airports are much too small, and it appears to be moving towards a shortage of freshwater. According to an article from the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta, the country invested only 3.6% of its GDP in infrastructure in 2009, and India’s government has stated that the poor infrastructure has likely slowed economic growth by about 2% per year. On the other hand, China has invested a lot in its infrastructure since the late 20th century. In 2009, the country spent 9% of its GDP on infrastructure. The nation built new coal mines and developed a modern power grid. Currently, China is developing nuclear power plants and investing heavily in their roads and highways. This, along with the country’s inexpensive labor, makes the nation very attractive to foreign investors. As of December 2015, China ranks fourth for foreign direct investment, while India ranks twenty-second. Furthermore, China’s per capita GDP is now more than double that of India.
Not only does a solid infrastructure attract investors, but it also leads to a more able workforce. A good infrastructure includes having access to clean water. Also, an efficient infrastructure ensures that electricity is available to keep food and medicine refrigerated. Having these amenities makes a country’s human capital more productive, leading to a more productive economy.
Look next week for a post on problems with the U.S. infrastructure!
Sources (for this post and future posts):
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. (2008). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from https://www.frbatlanta.org/regional-economy/econsouth/vol_10_no_2/econsouth-vol_10_no_2-building_a_better_world.aspx
Fixing the Highway Trust Fund. (2016, January 25). Retrieved February 21, 2016, from http://www.concordcoalition.org/issue-briefs/2016/0125/fixing-highway-trust-fund
Golson, J. (2015, January 23). It’s Time to Fix America’s Infrastructure. Here’s Where to Start. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.wired.com/2015/01/time-fix-americas-infrastructure-heres-start/
Halsey, A., III. (2012, August 1). Aging power grid on overload as U.S. demands more electricity. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/aging-power-grid-on-overload-as-us-demands-more-electricity/2012/08/01/gJQAB5LDQX_story.html
Johnson, D. (2015, December). How the Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-johnson/how-the-clinton-and-sande_b_8688628.html
Marco Rubio’s Plan to Build a 21st-Century Transportation System. (2015). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from https://marcorubio.com/issues-2/marco-rubio-transportation-policy-highways-roads/
Schmitt, A. (2015, February 05). More Money Won’t Fix U.S. Infrastructure If We Don’t Change How It’s Spent. Retrieved February 22, 2016 from http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/02/05/more-money-wont-fix-u-s-infrastructure-if-we-dont-change-how-its-spent/
Yglesias, M. (2015, December 01). Hillary Clinton’s infrastructure plan, explained. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9826668/clinton-infrastructure-plan-explained
Most Important Problem. (2016, February) Retrieved February 25 from http://www.artba.org/newsline/2015/10/22/two-new-polls-show-americans-overwhelmingly-support-increased-funding-for-infrastructure/