2021 Global Infrastructure Index – Survey results

A new global study carried out in 28 countries by Ipsos MORI, in collaboration with the Global Infrastructure Investor Association, finds that the public places greater priority on addressing impacts on the environment over the economy when making decisions about how to improve infrastructure in their country.

Click here to view the 2021 Global Infrastructure Index results

In the lead-up to COP26, an average of 51% of citizens across the 28 countries felt that it is right to prioritise the impact on the environment, nearly double the 26% who put greater weight on economic impacts.

Furthermore, the environment was also ranked as the most important factor among seven criteria when planning for the future; an average of 26% of people ranked this first, slightly ahead of the quality of infrastructure, chosen by 23%. Ownership and disruption were the least likely to be chosen as the top priority, selected by just 9% and 7% respectively, with ownership most commonly chosen as the lowest ranked factor (ranked as seventh out of seven by 24%).

Lawrence Slade, CEO Global Infrastructure Investor Association, said:

“As world leaders come together in Glasgow to consider next steps in the battle to address climate change, this survey should embolden decision makers to put the environment at the heart of their infrastructure investment plans. Global citizens are far from satisfied with their infrastructure today and want to see improvements, with many placing climate-related infrastructure such as water supply, renewable energy and flood defences at the top of their list.”

The Global Infrastructure Index survey, which has been running annually since 2016, shows wide variations in satisfaction with infrastructure. For example:

  • 77% are satisfied with infrastructure in China while only 18% are positive in Italy, compared with the global country average of 39%.
  • Across the G8 nations 37% are satisfied, higher than the 35% in Great Britain and 27% in the U.S.
  • In Europe, infrastructure in the Netherlands (74%), France (53%) and Germany (51%) is rated much more positively than in Spain (25%), Hungary (20%) and Italy (18%) at the other end of the scale.

Globally in 2021, people in South Africa (79%) and Brazil (75%) are most likely to agree that their country is “not doing enough to meet our infrastructure needs” but this is a majority view in all but five of the 28 countries. Agreement is weakest in South Korea (28%) and Japan (29%). Great Britain (64%) and the U.S. (61%) rank higher than the G8 average of 55%.

On average, three-quarters, 75%, across the 28 countries agreed that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy. South Africa leads – 90% agree – while the lowest level of agreement was in Japan with 51%.

Water supply and sewerage were identified as priorities for investment with 42% selecting it from a list of 13 possibilities, followed by solar energy infrastructure (39%) and flood defences (36%). Airports were seen as a priority for investment by much smaller proportions of people with just 11% selecting this. The same proportion chose nuclear infrastructure to generate energy (it was excluded as an option in the survey in nine countries).

In Great Britain, four of the top five priorities are climate-related; flood defences (selected by 44%), solar energy (38%), wind energy (38%), and EV charging (37%) head the list alongside rail infrastructure (37%).  In the U.S., the top five priorities are water supply and sewerage (48%), the local road network (43%), motorway/major road network (42%), solar (37%) and wind energy (31%).

Globally, more people continue to prioritize improvements to social infrastructure (42%) such as schools, hospital buildings and housing in preference to economic infrastructure (35%) such as road, rail and air networks, utilities such as energy and water, and broadband and other communications. However, the gap has narrowed since last year – when the pandemic had increased attention to hospitals and schools – from 16 percentage points then (48% versus 32%), to 7 points this year.

There continues to be a preference for maintaining and repairing existing infrastructure (chosen by 55%) as a priority rather than spending on new infrastructure projects (20%), an identical pattern to that found in 2019.

In both the U.S. and Britain, 61% support the role of the private sector in investing in infrastructure with only 6% against this in the U.S. and 9% in Britain; they welcome the prospect of private investment if it means their country gets the infrastructure they need.

Slade continued: “Our survey shows that people are much less concerned about whether infrastructure improvements come from private or public sources and are much more focused on the quality and environmental considerations.  At a time when many countries are looking to boost their economies and recover from the effects of the pandemic, governments should be focused on how to unlock private sector expertise to help deliver their future infrastructure needs.”

Spotlight on the U.S.

  • In the States, 27% are satisfied with their country’s infrastructure, compared to 37% who are dissatisfied. The Latin America region is the only one among six where dissatisfaction is higher.
  • 70% agree that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy, yet 61% believe that ‘not enough is being done’ to meet their country’s infrastructure needs.
  • Americans are overwhelmingly supportive (61%) of private investment in infrastructure if it means the country gets what’s needed with only 6% disagreeing.
  • Unlike most other countries, Americans would give higher priority to economic infrastructure (47%) over social infrastructure (27%). This compares to the global country average of 35% and 42% respectively.
  • In terms of specific infrastructure sectors, Americans would prioritize investment in water supply and sewerage (48%), the local road network (43%), major road networks (42%), solar (37%) and wind energy (31%).

Spotlight on Great Britain

  • In Britain, 35% are satisfied with their country’s infrastructure, compared to 26% who are dissatisfied.
  • 79% agree that investing in infrastructure will create new jobs and boost the economy, yet 64% believe that ‘not enough is being done’ to meet infrastructure needs.
  • Britons are overwhelmingly supportive (61%) of private investment in infrastructure if it means the country gets what’s needed with only 9% disagreeing.
  • In terms of specific infrastructure sectors, four of the top five priorities for investment are climate-related with flood defences (44%), solar energy (38%), wind energy (38%), and EV charging (37%) heading the list along with rail infrastructure (37%).
  • When making decisions about how to invest in infrastructure, 51% of Britons would give higher priority to considering the environmental impacts compared to 21% who would prioritize economic impacts.

GIIA Members’ Assets Exceeds $750bn

The 2020 edition of the GIIA / EY Global Asset Database reveals that GIIA members assets under management has exceeded US$780bn – comprising more than 1,500 assets across 55 countries.

This is an increase of more than £120bn since 2018/19.

The GIIA / EY Global Asset Database shows that GIIA members own, operate and invest in:

  • More than 100 airports serving more than 1 billion passengers annually
  • Utility companies serving 86.3 million customers
  • 321 ports moving more than 500m tonnes of cargo
  • 56,100MW of wind power, 18,600MW of solar power and 12,400MW of hydro power and biomass


Speaking on the release of the GIIA / EY Global Asset Database CEO Lawrence Slade said the results showed the value of private investment in infrastructure.

“At a time when Government balance sheets are under enormous pressure, the private sector has the available capital, experience and innovative ideas to deliver the environmental and socially responsible infrastructure needed for future generations.”

GIIA’s global membership has also continued to increase in 2019/20 with the addition of members from across traditional markets as well as Japan and India.


GIIA is grateful to EY for their support in putting together this information.


New Blog: Fight for net zero goes on, despite crisis

Writing for Utility Week CEO Lawrence Slade says even in these difficult times, utilities must continue to focus on the need to reduce emissions and the shift to a zero-carbon economy.

Our lives have changed completely in the space of just a few short weeks. Perhaps, in terms of how we work and manage our lives, things will never quite go back to normal, with more flexible working across thousands of roles and companies becoming the norm.

Uniquely, everyone in the country is affected. This will bring many challenges, not least to the National Health Service, whose staff deserve our heartfelt thanks for their amazing efforts, but also to those working to ensure the essential infrastructure that we all rely on, including electricity, gas, water, broadband and tele­coms networks, remains operational over this difficult period. The robustness of our utilities is something that, as a sector, we should be proud of.

But while it is understandably difficult to look beyond the next few weeks, we must. The underlying issues we faced before the Covid-19 crisis remain. For many reasons it is a blessing that we are emerging from winter, with the warmer weather able to bring respite on a number of fronts.

While this is welcome, many of our properties are still poorly insulated and thousands of families are living without modern levels of comfort. Furthermore, reduced incomes and sudden bill shocks as a result of economic volatility will not help, making it certain that many families will need further short-term help to manage debt in the coming months, as well as long-term solutions such as the provision of energy efficiency. Linked to this, of course, is the need to reduce our emissions and the longer-term move to a zero-carbon economy. The urgency to act is still there.

To meet the challenge of climate change, we know that many billions of pounds need to be invested in our infrastructure over the coming decades. Unfortunately, time is not on our side.

The chancellor’s moves to support the economy will provide vital respite for many businesses and families and will need to continue for some time. But, as has happened at other times of national emergency, it is important that we also look ahead to the future. We need to look at how we will get our economy moving again and how we invest in our communities to ensure value is created for all stakeholders.

Before the crisis hit, 2020 was, as the National Infrastructure Commission said, shaping up to be a year of decisive action. Reports suggested that the budget would give long-awaited clarity on infrastructure investment, building on the announcements in November that laid out how much money was to be invested in our infrastructure and how that could be split between the private and public sectors.

This was to be seen as a new start, with investment expected to be made in infrastructure projects across the UK – part of the process of “levelling up” our society away from an historical focus on investment in the South.

Moves to allow onshore wind and solar projects to bid in the contracts for difference auctions were welcome, likewise the move to speed up the roll-out of fibre-optic cabling for better broadband connectivity, but we need to keep the momentum going.

Addressing climate change, making the investment in new – and upgrading existing – infrastructure and delivering a clean, carbon-free economy is something that future generations will thank us for. When we surface from the current crisis, we have the opportunity to reset society’s relationship with the built environment and pull the country together.

Combining government funding with that available from the private sector will allow us to achieve much more, much faster. Utility projects do not happen overnight; rather they take years of planning and building before delivery. As a country, whether it is across our energy, water or telecoms networks, we need to plan and to act to ensure that the right long-term strategy is in place.

A strategic dialogue between government, devolved administrations and the private sector will ensure that private capital is deployed where it is most needed to aid economic recovery. To be absolutely clear, the government’s immediate priority must be to respond to the health crisis by ensuring our hospitals and hard-working staff are provided the necessary equipment needed to save lives.

But at the same time, working together we can begin the important job of delivering the infrastructure needed to propel the country’s economy.

Private investors stand ready with capital to deploy to support these public sector-led initiatives, as well as offering unrivalled expertise in project management and delivery.


Government engagement in UK and Brussels

With the recently re-elected Boris Johnson Government in the UK and the new Commission in Europe both looking to address the delivery of infrastructure early in their respective terms, it has been a busy start to 2020 for GIIA.

Ahead of the March Budget, GIIA has written to Chancellor Sajid Javid welcoming his promise of an ‘infrastructure revolution’ as well as the Government’s acknowledgement of the vital role private capital will play in delivering the country’s £600bn infrastructure pipeline to 2050.  We have called for enhanced dialogue with the private sector over the funding models envisaged to achieve the UK’s infrastructure aspirations, not least in relation to the Net Zero commitments which promises to have profound impacts on the wider economy.

January also saw GIIA in Brussels to meet with senior representatives from the European Commission including from President von der Leyen’s Cabinet, where coordination of the EU Green Deal will take place, and Commissioner Gentolini’s Cabinet which has responsibility for the InvestEU programme and the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan. GIIA intends to play a prominent role in facilitating discussions on the delivery mechanisms for the recently announced  EU Green Deal and in particular the opportunities available to private investors. We look forward to discussing these and other opportunities with member companies at our annual seminar in February.

As always, members who wish to share their views and participate in any of GIIA’s workstreams are encouraged to get in touch.