In this podcast, New Zealand Infrastructure Commission Board Chair, Alan Bollard describes post-pandemic infrastructure development conditions and impacts in Asia and the Pacific. He also addresses onward project financing, climate change, and sustainability considerations.
The discussion draws on an ADBI Featured Speaker Webinar with Dr. Bollard, who served as Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor during the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath as well as Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Secretariat in Singapore from 2013 to 2018.
“Most of the challenges are in East Asia, where the rivers hit the seas, because that’s where the populations are. That’s where the agricultural economy is. It’s where the issues around building dams, river flows and rain patterns are important and where, say, line intrusion from the ocean is important. And so I guess, Japan, in some respects, has had a view that you can build hard infrastructure to protect yourself from some of these things, hence, the sea walls and so on around many of the islands,” he said.
“But more and more, as we learn and see some of the examples in there, we do have to think about green infrastructure, which for us, in New Zealand, we are thinking about quite a lot. And that means containing and managing water flows, which might be out of rivers, but maybe our rainfall in ways where we can get natural movements of the water and natural pooling and then gradual release. We’re building wetlands, which will gradually absorb rainfall, which will absorb rainfall very quickly when it comes and then gradually release it without flooding.
“So looking at those flooding, green infrastructures pushes, you’re in quite a different position from simply putting up concrete, sea walls and so on, as we might have in the past; I think we’ll see more of that around the place. And there’s going to have to be a lot of investment in plant selection and so on to withstand some of those issues. But new thinking on infrastructure is needed as much as old concrete-based infrastructure.” “I think that governments have a role around setting standards. And those standards would be around digital platforms. But they also do involve some things in which there are quite different views around the region, in terms of data privacy, who owns data, cyber security, and some other geostrategic important things, as well as simply the sort of stuff that I’m interested in, which is economics. And so the more we can get those standards, the better.
“The more those standards work for a wide range of countries and economies, the better. We always felt in APEC that we wanted to see harmonization and interconnectivity.”