Infrastructure for a sustainable, prosperous future

  • Freddy Nevison-Andrews

On Tuesday 5 March, Canning House held the “Latin American Infrastructure: Sustainability, Prosperity and Innovation” conference, in partnership with KPMG, examining how transport infrastructure can help deliver sustainable development in Latin America.

Infrastructure for a sustainable, prosperous future

On Tuesday 5 March, Canning House held the “Latin American Infrastructure: Sustainability, Prosperity and Innovation” conference, in partnership with KPMG, examining how transport infrastructure can help deliver sustainable development in Latin America.

Jeremy Browne, CEO of Canning House, opened the session by highlighting the vast infrastructure opportunities in Latin America. Browne planted how Latin America can draw on the experience of other regions, such as Asia, where rapid infrastructural development has been a key driver for economic growth.

Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s Global Head of Infrastructure, Government, Healthcare and Transport, called discussion of infrastructural development “an existentially important conversation” – critical to the lives and livelihoods of many millions of people around the world.

Featuring two panels and a fireside chat, the conference brought together thought-leaders and executives from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and the UK from across the infrastructure sector including consulting, construction, finance, insurance, InfraTech, the public sector, and academia. The discussion featured leading companies including KPMG, Price Forbes, Gleeds, Mott MacDonald, AECOM, and ERG International alongside Crossrail International, the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, and University College London.

The first panel, “Investment, Innovation, Infrastructure: Partnerships for Prosperity in Latin America,” evaluated opportunities and challenges for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Latin America. A wide-ranging conversation drew insights from the many sectors and specialisms represented on the panel – aviation, energy, insurance, procurement and others.

Panellists pointed to common factors across the infrastructure industry in Latin America, such as the need to build capacity for both contemporary and future projects; the interwoven nature of different strands of infrastructure, such as the “symbiotic” relationship between Santiago’s Metro and solar farms in the Atacama; and the lessons to be taken from success in government-to-government agreements like that between the UK and Peru. Overall, the panel were optimistic that a new cycle may be beginning for Latin American infrastructure, spurred by renewable energy projects and other potentially major market opportunities.

A fireside chat between Santiago Barba (Partner, KPMG) and Dr Daniel Oviedo Hernández (Associate Professor, UCL Development Planning Unit) addressed the question, “How can Latin America meet its growing infrastructure demands?” Overarching themes emerging included (in)equality, (de)urbanisation, and resilience. A key takeaway was that, for Latin America, the infrastructure question is no longer simply one of where money is coming from; but increasingly also where it is going to, with new consciousness of social gaps, changing living and working dynamics, and the long-term impact of projects on communities.

The second panel, “Mind the Gap: Revitalising Rail in Latin America,” contemplated the place of railways for the sustainable transport of people and goods in Latin America. Emphasising the immense complexity of rail projects – with their huge numbers of stakeholders and engineering challenges – conversation flowed between topics including funding and implementation structures, and the need for a long-term financial view; capacity and capability of delivery, and the upskilling of local suppliers; “future-proofing” of rail projects, both in their business cases and against natural disaster; and the keenness of Latin American partners to embrace digital methodologies.

Ultimately, the panel landed on four key factors in the revitalisation of Latin American rail: availability of financing, knowledge and good practice, localising supply chains, and infrastructural resilience. All of that, said one panellist, feeds into the ability to deliver projects on time and on budget, benefitting local communities and reducing the political unpredictability sometimes associated with major infrastructure.

Canning House thanks KPMG for its partnership on this conference; our speakers for their fascinating insights; and our audience for their engagement and interest.

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