The latest Global Infrastructure Index finds a continued sense that infrastructure provides a ‘double dividend’, boosting the economy and combating climate change. However, citizens are largely dissatisfied with delivery, and cool about raising taxes or borrowing to fund investment.
The survey - carried out in 31 countries by Ipsos in collaboration with the Global Infrastructure Investor Association - finds a majority in most countries, and a global country average of 69%, agree that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy (although this view is not as strong as it was during the pandemic).
In most countries, a majority - 59% on average - think infrastructure can also make an important contribution to combating climate change.
However, 57% think their country is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs and, on average, 44% rate ten infrastructure sectors as being fairly or very poor.
In the previous Index conducted in 2021 in the lead-up to COP26, a global country average of 51% across 28 counties felt that it is right to prioritise the impact on the environment when making decisions about how to improve infrastructure, nearly double the 26% who put greater weight on economic impacts. A similar pattern exists in 2023 (against a very different economic backdrop), but there has been some movement towards economic impact – 29% prioritise this compared with 47% who consider environmental impacts to be more important.
The public are also more comfortable than they were in 2018 before the Coronavirus pandemic with increasing spending on infrastructure even if this means higher taxes or more government borrowing. However, this is still preferred by a minority - 29% (up seven percentage points from 22% five years ago).
There is considerable variation in overall satisfaction with infrastructure
The global country average level of satisfaction with infrastructure overall is higher at 38% than the average level of dissatisfaction at 30%, but many people are unsure with a third (33%) neither satisfied nor dissatisfied or answering don’t know.
Citizens in Singapore, Indonesia, Netherlands and India tend are among the most positive, with Peru, Italy, Hungary and Romania among the most negative.
There is considerable variation in sentiment. For example, there is a gap of 65 percentage points in overall levels of satisfaction with infrastructure across the 31 countries. Three-quarters are either very or fairly satisfied in Singapore (74%), just one in ten (9%) in Romania.
The gap is narrower in the G7 countries ranging from 22% in Italy to 43% in Japan but is wide in the APAC region ranging from 29% in New Zealand to 74% in Singapore.
People in South Africa (78%), Romania (also 78%) and Brazil (73%) are most likely to agree that their country is not doing enough to meet infrastructure needs. South Korea (21%), Singapore (28%) and Japan (31%) have the lowest level of agreement.
Globally, sentiment has changed little on this measure but, notably, the percentage agreeing in the U.S. has fallen from 61% in 2021 to 57% this year.
Some infrastructure sectors are rated better than others
There is considerable variation in ratings of individual infrastructure sectors. Ratings range from a global country average of 68% for airports being very or fairly good to an equivalent 30% for flood defences:
Again, there is substantial variation. For example, in Britain there has been a 23-percentage point increase in negative ratings of water supply and sewerage since 2019, and in Australia a 33-point increase in negative ratings of new housing supply over the same period.
Citizens prioritise solar energy, water supply and sewerage, flood defences and new housing more than anything else, but this is not a uniform picture
As in the five previous Global Infrastructure Index surveys, there is strong competition for the top infrastructure investment priorities. Solar energy features prominently - chosen on average by 42% from a list of 14 sectors – joined at the top by water supply/sewerage (41%), flood defences (also 41%) and new housing supply (39%). These are the same top four as in 2021.
There is some variation in investment priorities among the 31 countries:
- New housing supply is the top priority in Australia, Ireland, Canada, Chile, Germany, Netherlands and Poland.
- Wind energy is in the top three ranked priorities in Britain, Ireland, Spain and Turkey.
- Local roads are in the top three in several countries - Belgium, Italy, Hungary (where it is top), Indonesia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the U.S.
- Motorways are in the top three in Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Romania and in New Zealand.
- Digital infrastructure makes the top three in Germany, Malaysia and Singapore.
- Pavements/pedestrian areas the same in Belgium, Chile, Mexico and Thailand.
- Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure is in the top three in South Korea.
- Cycle routes/lanes and facilities are in the top three in Netherlands.
People think infrastructure isn’t being built quickly enough or adapted to climate change but don’t want to compromise local engagement or intergenerational equity
There is a widely held view that building necessary infrastructure is not being done quickly enough. On average, 60% agree and this sentiment is strongest where dissatisfaction with infrastructure is highest. For example, 79% agree in South Africa, 77% in both Romania and Peru, and 75% in Argentina compared to just 36% in South Korea and 31% in Singapore.
Alongside a sense of urgency, most people do not want to compromise opportunities for local communities to shape plans. On average, 65% agree that local communities’ views on plans for infrastructure should be heard properly, even if it means delays. This sentiment is strongest in the same countries favouring greater speed – for example, 76% agree in Peru, 74% in South Africa, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
On average, 61% don’t think infrastructure in their country has been adapted enough to cope with future changes in the climate.
A global average of 64% agree that when making decisions about investing in infrastructure in their country, the cost of paying for it should be spread evenly between current and future taxpayers and customers or generations.
They are similarly split when asked to choose between minimising the cost to consumers and taxpayers in the short-term, chosen on average by 34%, and prioritising infrastructure in the long-term, preferred by 37%. Younger generations are relatively more likely to prioritise short-term costs than older ones.
The benefit of a global survey is that it allows us to contextualise public attitudes towards infrastructure in one country by comparing them with those in other countries. This year, we see significant variation in people’s priorities for investment – for example, while new housing supply is the top priority in Australia, Ireland, Canada and Chile among others, local roads feature prominently in, for example, Hungary, Indonesia, New Zealand and South Africa, with digital infrastructure making the top three in Germany, Malaysia and Singapore.
However, the 31 countries we covered have much in common. There continues to be a strongly held conviction among citizens everywhere that governments need to do more on infrastructure. We’re also seeing steadfast interest in investment in renewable energy sources and an expectation that infrastructure will be a key part of pro-environment as well as pro-growth strategies.
— Ben Marshall - Research Director, Ipsos UK
Communities right around the world want to see us moving further and faster when it comes to infrastructure investment, especially where net zero is concerned.
They don’t necessarily see more pressure on public balance sheets as the right conduit for this investment, and this is where private investors can come in: working with governments to deliver improvements to communities, decarbonisation and long-term, stable returns to pension savers.
As the global race to attract inward investment accelerates, it’s never been more important for policymakers and regulators to work with international funds to create environments where investments can thrive.
— John Phillips - Chief Executive, Global Infrastructure Investor Association
About the study
These are the results of a 31-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform and, in India, on its IndiaBus platform, between Friday, May 26 and Friday, June 9, 2023. For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,816 adults aged 18 years and older in India, 18-74 in Canada, Republic of Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Indonesia and Singapore, and 16-74 in all other countries.