TIME magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ features and profiles a person, or a group that “… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” For 2019, it was Greta Thunberg for her voice on climate change, and her “dressing down” of world leaders at the United Nations. The Hong Kong protestors were among the runners-up.
These examples epitomize the louder, more pressing voices of social discontent and a greater demand for change. These were not isolated incidents either. Buoyed by the cohesion which social media fosters, citizens are voicing their discontent against perceived social injustices. From geopolitical and socio-economic developments to climate protests and increased demand for customer-centricity, the pace of change across the globe has only accelerated in the past year.
In such a rapidly evolving landscape, it’s become clear that infrastructure must craft a sustainable response. Developments such as environmental change, rapid technological advances that make projects unexpectedly obsolete, ageing assets and increased urbanization are pressuring planners to balance current and future needs. The key for governments, investors, developers and operators alike is to listen carefully and define strategies proactively.
In our annual report on Emerging Trends in Infrastructure, we aim to inform such thinking.
Crucially for the Asia Pacific region, these changes represent a growing paradigm shift.
With the West increasingly looking inward, capital flows are heading towards the risk-adjusted projects of the East. Emerging market governments, constrained by a lack of adequate public resources to fund infrastructure, are increasingly serious about creating the right investment climate for the participation of private finance.
Further, even as new technologies continue to redefine the future, the Infratech agenda will be increasingly driven by emerging economies in the region. With hegemony over each new technology come new skills, capabilities and opportunities. And with parts of the region already at the forefront of this drive, there will be a shift towards greater data and analytics capabilities as a major – albeit contentious – evolving trend.
Frustrated by the delays, cost over-runs and disruptions of megaprojects, developers and governments are increasingly embracing a new philosophy to infrastructure planning. Developers are likely to aim for more nimble projects that are capable of swift adjustments to changes in demand and technology. With the need for solutions to balance the speed of delivery with sustainability, infrastructure projects are likely to increasingly split into smaller programs affording greater flexibility while delivering quick wins for citizens and consumers.
As evolving trends become more intertwined and interdependent, forming a response is challenging, but presents a great opportunity.
“Thailand itself has been promoting major investments on infrastructure projects, particularly focusing on building greater connectivity, with the aims for Thailand to be the economic gateway linking the region to other economies in Asia,” says Tanate Kasemsarn, Head of Infrastructure, KPMG in Thailand. “The government is focusing heavily on attracting private financing and foreign direct investments into the country, particularly deregulating certain immigration laws to ensure Thailand maintains its attractiveness and competitiveness for investors. Moreover, 2019 was set by the Board of Investment (BOI) as ‘Thailand Investment Year’ with one of the focus being to enhance the country’s rail connectivity. At the end of 2019, BOI also announced another incentive called the “Thailand Plus” package that targets foreign direct investments. As a result, BOI was able to reach its 2019 goal of THB750 billion in investments. In 2020, we expect to see greater push towards gaining private financing to support the country’s infrastructure projects despite expected economic slowdown.”