Journal Article

British infrastructure policy and the gradual return of the state

Dieter Helm

in Oxford Review of Economic Policy

Published on behalf of The Oxford Review of Economic Policy Ltd

Volume 29, issue 2, pages 287-306
Published in print January 2013 | ISSN: 0266-903X
Published online November 2013 | e-ISSN: 1460-2121 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxrep/grt018
British infrastructure policy and the gradual return of the state

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  • Regulation and Industrial Policy
  • Intertemporal Choice and Growth
  • National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
  • Economic Development

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The state of British infrastructure is the source of almost continuous study and criticism. There is now a host of new demands in water, energy, transport and communications which require a step change in investment. The Coalition government has made a series of reforms—to planning, finance, and the setting of priorities—which have been drawn together in National Infrastructure Plan statements. A number of high-profile and large-scale projects have been advanced. This paper sets out the evolution of these policy interventions and explains why government involvement is critical to their success. It documents the gradual return of the state, as part of a process of underpinning the investment costs, in the provision of credible contracts, and in closing the gap between public and private costs of capital. It suggests that rather than pursue infrastructure policy as a set of priority projects, greater use of regulated asset bases and attention to the time-inconsistency problem would better achieve the overarching objectives.

Keywords: infrastructure; regulation and industrial policy; investment; infrastructures; other public investment; capital stock; O18; L52; D92; H54

Journal Article.  10374 words. 

Subjects: Regulation and Industrial Policy ; Intertemporal Choice and Growth ; National Government Expenditures and Related Policies ; Economic Development

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