Genoa, once again, is the center of attention in Italy and internationally. But this time, it’s not because the city that replaced the collapsed Morandi Bridge with the new one, the San Giorgio, in record time is opening up a new construction site.
On September 27 and 28, Genoa will host two G20 infrastructure between top officials from the Economy and Finance Ministries of countries making up 80% of the world’s GDP, 75% of global trade and 60% of the planet’s population. Representatives of the countries’ central banks will also attend.
The topic of infrastructure is central to post-Covid global economic recovery. The debate will focus on major investments and how these countries are responding to the need to develop their strategic infrastructure. The United States will discuss its $1.5 trillion plan put forward by President Joe Biden and approved by the Senate; China with showcase its Belt and Road Initiative, which has been slowed down a bit by the Covid crisis; the European Union will point to Next Generation EU funding intended largely for the development of digital infrastructure and a rapid energy transition.
The Genoa meeting comes after Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors met in Venice and approved the “G20 Policy Agenda on Infrastructure Maintenance,” a policy document that aims first of all to provide a framework that directs investments on maintenance of existing infrastructure.
The role of large infrastructure maintenance in economic growth
The central point of the document approved by the Venice meeting and which will be the basis for the work of the G20 in Genoa concerns the strategic value of maintenance. According to the Italian Presidency of the G20’s website, “the Agenda calls for a change of perspective: to consider the expense of infrastructure maintenance not only as the cost of keeping structures in good condition, but rather as an investment that can ensure important benefits both in the short and long term.”
The G20 Policy Agenda is based on data from the World Bank Group report entitled “Well Maintained: Economic Benefits from more Reliable and Resilient Infrastructure.” According to the study, timely maintenance can increase prosperity and well-being, both for companies and people. The report calculates that $82 billion of turnover is lost every year in low- and medium- income countries due to power line failures; the malfunctioning of water infrastructure causes $6 billion of annual damage; and the costs due to the interruption or unavailability of transport amount to $107 billion.
The World Bank study also reports that in 96% of the cases studied, for every $1 spent to make infrastructure more resilient, there is a return of over $1. “It is more than $2 in 77% of the cases, and higher than $6 in 25%,” said the report. These numbers confirm the importance of infrastructure maintenance, a theme that takes on particular significance in Genoa, the scene of the collapse of the Morandi Bridge and the incredibly rapid construction work on the San Giorgio Bridge to replace it.
G20 countries' response to infrastructure risk
Maintaining infrastructure is essential to the physical and economic well-being of people and communities, which is why G20 countries are showing a growing desire to resume their investments. Attached to the G20 report is the “Annex of Infrastructure Maintenance Case Studies” looking at 45 different examples. In Korea, for example, the “Seoul Infrastructure Next 100-Year Project” provides for constant monitoring of infrastructure through the use of advanced technologies, and in parallel an investment plan to reduce maintenance costs over the life cycle of the works.
Japan since 2013 has adopted the National Strategy for Life Extension of Infrastructure, which applies innovative solutions to increase the durability and resilience of infrastructure works over time. In Turkey, the Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project has led to the renovation of 1,400 public buildings, while Russia’s Energy Efficient School Maintenance Systems project aims to achieve up to 70% reduction in energy consumption in the country’s public schools.
Maintenance therefore becomes a central theme in the global debate on infrastructure, and Genoa is the ideal stage for updates on the strategy of the G20 countries.
Genoa, the new focus on maintenance starts here
In fact, the website of the Italian G20 Presidency states that the reconstruction of the San Giorgio Bridge represents the country’s determination to take better care of its infrastructural heritage.
“Not only was it rebuilt in record time (also thanks to the supportive engagement of the city), but it is a prominent example of state-of-the-art technology applied to increase the resilience, sustainability and cost-efficiency of operation and maintenance,” says the G20 website.
The achievement of the San Giorgio Bridge is the starting point for the G20 Infrastructure Working Group that will meet in Genoa, the day after the G20 High-Level Conference on Local Infrastructure Investment, which will be opened by Italian Economy Minister Daniele Franco. Genoa is ready for the event, the ideal stage for the sort of urban transformation that is the goal of the world’s largest and most modern metropolises.