Infrastructure investment in
The standard story
• UK under-invests, though this occurs elsewhere
• “The CBI has found that 70% of senior business
figures consider the UK’s infrastructure to be
poor” (Policy Exchange 2009).
• Some truth that UK tends to low end of
economic infrastructure investment.
• But more useful to look more closely, as the
OECD data does, though this is still imperfect,
both in terms of disaggregation and in length of
time series. ITF recommends caution on
Government total investment
Trends in overall public investment
as % of GDP, 1970-2004
ITF data for West European
countries, in global comparison
ITF Trends 1995-2008
Overall investment in economic
and social infrastructure 1970-2006
GFCF - Electricity, gas and water
GFCF – Post and
GFCF – Transport and storage
OECD 1970-2006, electricity, water
OECD 1970-2006 transport,
storage and communications
Energy production investment 1990-2008
(Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, top to
Air transport 1990-2008 ((UK, Germany, France,
Netherlands top to bottom)
Transport and storage 1970-2008 (Germany,
France, UK, Netherlands top to bottom)
Transport, storage and communications 1970-
2008 (Germany, Spain, France, UK, Netherlands,
top to bottom)
Collection, purification and distribution of water
1990-2008 (France, Germany, UK, Netherlands
top to bottom)
Overall Australian GFCF data
• Generalised decline in most sectors (not
post and telecoms) from mid 1980s.
• UK always low on these graphs, around
1% of GDP for energy and water, 1 to
1.5% for transport.
• Most European countries somewhat
higher, especially France, in this data set
running to 2003.
OECD STAN data summary
• Germany is highest on energy, transport
and water investment, normally by large
• UK top on airports investment, others far
• France and UK often around similar levels
on energy, transport and water, though on
balance France higher.
• Not a fully conclusive picture in comparing these
• GFCF data puts UK consistently low and often
lowest since 1970.
• But neither OECD nor STAN data make this so
striking. There aviation as UK growth sector, and
not that much behind France on others.
• Germany always strong on STAN data –
reunification as powerful element of this since
• Many countries have invested more than UK in
these decades, but always hard to say what
“appropriate” level of infrastructure investment
• Australian analysts have tussled with this, but no
“objective” answer reached.
• It depends on your goals...
• So, in my view, we should be very careful with
CBI, ICE etc type judgements of “infrastructure
gaps”. Statistics cannot prove this.