State Infrastructure Plan - Strategic Directions (2001)

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SIP Outline

See also CPDS Comments

Outline of the Department of State Development's SIP - Strategic Directions 2001
[See also State Infrastructure Plan on DSD's web-site]

Cost effective infrastructure is a key requirement for regional success in a changing global market. The nature of infrastructure is also changing - to include: skills and training; telecommunications; networks to support innovation and technology as well as conventional power, water, roads. Also the way in which infrastructure is built and operated is changing - with a greater private sector role in financing and delivery.

Planning infrastructure effectively is now critical - and harder than ever. This plan is being produced to fulfil a government election commitment.

Infrastructure is an enabler of other activities. The plan's objectives are: 

  • coordinate infrastructure provision in support of economic development; 
  • establish strategic economic objectives for all infrastructure; 
  • identify infrastructure likely to support sustainable economic development; 
  • optimise use of existing infrastructure; 
  • set budget priorities; 
  • identify opportunities for private sector investment; and 
  • increase business confidence.

Identifying economic activities for which infrastructure support is warranted is difficult - except where firm investment proposals have been announced. Furthermore infrastructure can also be a catalyst for investment.

Planners can't determine which industries and enterprises will succeed - but must use limited resources to reinforce competitive strengths of regions which will allow enterprises to be established and grow.

Infrastructure is provided both by government and the private sector  - and coordinated delivery is hard where infrastructure is market driven. 

The plan needs to anticipate likely economic activities in the regions - based on existing economies and how they will change. It also needs to define the role of new infrastructure in realising a region's development opportunities. Thus analysis of economic opportunities and their relation to infrastructure is critical.

The outlook for the global economy in the next few decades suggests an environment characterised by:

  • increased electronic interactions on a global scale;
  • human and social capital as the main factor in wealth creation;
  • increased need for innovation , and enabling technologies;
  • shift by commodity producers in the face of falling prices and low cost competition towards productivity and value adding;
  • international market orientation, and participation in global supply chains;
  • increasingly selective customers;
  • increasing role for service and knowledge based industries; and
  • changing community leisure and recreational pursuits. 

Thus broad strategic directions for Queensland infrastructure are

  • a strategic and coordinated approach to infrastructure provision;
  • investment to increase the application of enabling technologies to support business and industry;
  • competitive priced telecommunications access;
  • strategies to train skilled people, and better align education and training;
  • water as a key resource - which requires balancing competing uses;
  • the need for competitively priced electricity - and for natural gas, and base load power generation, for industrial development in North Queensland;
  • fast and efficient integrated transport; 
  • reserving land for future industrial development.

These will need to be addressed by future action. 

The State Infrastructure Plan has two components - Strategic Directions 2001 and annual implementation plans. The former sets the framework for the latter. It was based on an examination of the fundamentals of the state's regions - and validated by consultation with stakeholders. Analysis started from a state-wide perspective (and included consideration of 7 infrastructure sectors, namely: innovation and technology; telecommunications; skills, training and education; water; energy; transport; and strategic land). This was the context for regional analyses - which provided important insights into the role of new technologies, innovation, telecommunications, education and training will have. 

Strategic Directions 2001 was based on a long term perspective - and will be revised every 5 years. Annual implementation plans will be released in parallel with the state budget - and include both state-wide issues and Regional Infrastructure Strategies. Regional Infrastructure Strategies will set out a program of investigations and committed projects - as a rolling five year program. 


CPDS Comments 

By way of background it is noted that Queensland's machinery for planning infrastructure does not appear to be effective (see Problems in Infrastructure Planning and Delivery in Queensland).

Regarding Strategic Directions 2001, it appears that:

  • this plan was primarily prepared for political purposes (ie to fulfil an election commitment). 
  • the plan only explores the relationship between infrastructure and economic issues - and, though this is important, it is not sufficient. For example: 
    • there is no consideration of social (as compared with economic) infrastructure - though the former is a major area of government effort and the area in which government (as sole purchaser on behalf of the community) has most ability to determine the outcome; 
    • there is no emphasis on the relationship between infrastructure and urban design (which the Integrated Planning Act is intended to promote);
    • environmental sustainability is merely paid lip service - though the issues involved are serious. 
  • the plan outlines why making decisions about economic infrastructure is hard - but doesn't present any real solution. For example:
    • a large number of actions have been proposed in relation to 7 infrastructure areas and various regions on the basis of extensive consultation (presumably mainly with service providers). Unfortunately such consultation will:
      • not ensure that detailed technical feasibility studies are undertaken before proposals are put forward;
      • reveal what providers would like to do - rather than what users would want them to do.  A 'producer driven' infrastructure strategy is unlikely to be economically desirable - noting (for example) that the whole purpose of market liberalisation (eg in agriculture) over the past 15 years has been to escape from the problems associated with 'producer driven' strategy. And acceptance of any project within a plan derived this way could make it a matter of 'policy' irrespective of what detailed feasibility studies reveal. Queensland already has a problem with economic and infrastructure initiatives that seem to be being undertaken mainly for political benefit. See for example:
      • not reveal significant new infrastructure requirements or opportunities which may be the subject of feasibility studies by organizations (eg potential investors) who are not consulted; or which require feasibility studies that no one has yet undertaken. The process is thus always 'backward looking' towards options that are already known, rather than enabling emergent / strategic infrastructure options to be identified.
      • risk providing public or private service providers with insider influence over government decisions which could financially benefit themselves - where government is potentially the purchaser of, or required to pay CSOs for, some infrastructure services. However there is no mention of this potential conflict of interest.   The massive difficulties in the incestuous relationships within the (so-called) military-industrial complex in the USA, and in the 'construction-state' in Japan show the nature of the risks.
    • centralized 'planning' can no more pick commercial winners for user-pays infrastructure than such 'planning' can do for any other economic activity - because it is impossible for a planner to obtain all the information needed for such a decision;
    • the infrastructure problem which seems currently to be proving most difficult to solve involves transport systems in SE Queensland (see Transport). Strategic Directions 2001 mentions various issues related to solving this problem that seem relevant (eg funding, road pricing,  service coordination) but it did not seem to address the institutional question of how a unified and practical vision about this system might emerge to overcome the current fragmentation and wastage of effort.
  • the key point is probably that investigations and decisions need to be made by the organizations having an operational responsibility for a  particular type of economic infrastructure - and prepared through their line management and budgeting processes with a clear focus on user requirements and technical issues. They can not be determined in the abstract through a 'planning' process - even if government is the main purchaser of the infrastructure.  It is suggested that:
    • Strategic intervention by government should be to ensure that those who do the planning are well informed, in communication with others and legally able to 'get on with the job' - not to pre-empt their efforts by endorsing the guesses of various committees about what should be done.  
    • If managed correctly such a strategic intervention would result in a list of projects and issues - but these would be indicative, rather than prescriptive. Moreover, except for state PR purposes, at least as much emphasis would be given to the organizations responsible for planning and providing infrastructure (ie to the 'who' and 'how') as is given to projects and issues (ie to the 'what')
  • government business enterprises that are subjected to private competition (and on whose financial performance Queensland's increasingly difficult budget position depends) would be unwise to rely on the State Infrastructure Plan in determining their investment decisions.
  • several assumptions made in Strategic Directions 2001 appear to need qualification. For example:
    • it is assumed that the economy will continue to globalise. However, though continued globalisation is most likely, cultural (and other) frictions exist that may have the same potential to derail the process as the friction between the UK and Germany did in relation to 19th century globalisation (see Competing Civilizations and The Second Failure of Globalization?). Contingency consideration of alternative scenarios would seem desirable;
    • Queensland's industrial profile is assumed to remain on its past trajectory - despite uncertainties which environmental constraints (especially greenhouse issues in relation to energy intensive industry) must pose;
    • 'value adding' is assumed to be a logical diversification for commodity producers though (a) this is not assured merely by 'downstream processing' and (b) an entirely different set of skills, and a well developed regional economy, are likely to be required to do so (see Section 3 of Detailed Discussion of Queensland's Challenge). 
  • it appears to be assumed that private participation in infrastructure is a late-stage involvement (eg in financing and construction of opportunities identified first by government). This view may be unrealistic.

January 2002 (and subsequently modified)