On August 30th the Inter-American Development bank (IDB), together with the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) launched INFRALATAM, a platform that aims to become a regional public good, expanding our knowledge of the level of investment in infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean with the goal of setting priorities, scheduling investments, analyzing the impact and promoting the productive use of resources with a high potential for promoting significant development.
INFRALATAM is a tool that allows us to avoid comparing apples to oranges. The situation is not so simple. You see: in Latin America and the Caribbean, we are experts at giving different names to the same thing. For example, in Argentina or Chile we call caramel, “dulce de leche” whereas in Mexico caramel is known as “cajeta” and in Colombia it is “arequipe”. And in other cases, the situation is the opposite; we use the same word to refer to completely different concepts.
The world of national accounts is no stranger to this reality, especially when it comes to what we know as economic infrastructure. Although most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean make use of the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund regarding the classification of public expenditure, many of them classify infrastructure investment differently. Moreover, if we compare the investment in infrastructure in each country, we find that even the definition of infrastructure – and therefore the sectors that are considered part of it – is not the same.
This situation led the IDB, together with CAF and ECLAC, to consider how to assess the investment in infrastructure in a homogeneous and standardized way. That is to say, to be able to compare apples to apples and oranges with oranges. To do this, in the first place it was necessary to define what type of investments we were going to identify. We agreed that we would consider investments made by the public sector, including both non-financial public enterprises and sub-national governments. Secondly, we agreed which sectors would be considered as “economic infrastructure,” and in doing so we included investments in water and sanitation, flood defenses, energy, irrigation, telecommunications and transportation. Finally, we agreed that we would not only include expansion and improvement projects, but also maintenance and pre-investment costs. In this way, we defined a methodology for measuring public investment in infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean.
|It is essential to note that the IDB, CAF and ECLAC are not doing the job of collecting data in an isolated way; we are working with various governments in the region, through their ministries of finance, national planning and public investment systems. To date, 15 countries have joined this initiative in order to report on investments in infrastructure, disseminate results and promote the analysis of their impact. This task, which began in 2011 and which provides detailed information from fifteen countries between 2008 and 2013, is currently being improved in two ways: to keep the data for all 15 countries updated and to incorporate new countries into the initiative.
Public investment in infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean 2008-2013
INFRALATAM provides access to information on public investment in infrastructure by sector and subsector, country and period. In addition, the data is combined with the database on private investments developed by the World Bank (PPI database) to account for the total infrastructure investment in each country included.
At the IDB, CAF and ECLAC we strongly believe in the INFRALATAM initiative and intend to continue the effort to provide useful and relevant information to support the region’s development goals. We invite you to access the database, make use of its information and help us improve it. Only by understanding where we are, can we figure out what is required to get where we want to go.
For more information:
Tomas Serebrisky firstname.lastname@example.org
Ancor Suarez email@example.com
Lenin Balza firstname.lastname@example.org
Diego Margot email@example.com