Image of a bridge under construction

Infrastructure is critical for economic and social development across the world. Transport infrastructure allows people to travel to work and transport goods to different markets. The power and utility systems provide us with the energy and services that we need to survive. We all rely on infrastructure systems to ensure that our basic human needs are met.

The term 'global infrastructure gap' refers to the difference between the infrastructure investment needed and the resources made available to address that need.

Globally, some top barriers to meeting infrastructure need are:

  • Lack of political leadership
  • Lack of finance or funding
  • Planning and regulatory barriers

Defining the challenge: Quantifying the gap

To understand the nature of the infrastructure gap and its challenges we need to take two different approaches: a notional, quantifiable investment gap and a subjective, needs-based service gap.

Figure of two approaches to the infrastructure gap. Approach 1. infrastructure investment gap: Notional target (aspirational), quantifiable; Source: Global Infrastructure Outlook. Approach 2. infrastructure service gap: Subjective view of need; Source: ACCA- CPA Canada member survey. Click for larger image

The infrastructure investment gap

Economic analysis shows that the global infrastructure investment gap is set to grow to US$14 trillion by 2040 and this figure sets the benchmark for meeting the world's infrastructure needs. Top performers, such as Singapore, Japan and Canada, exemplify good practices, while countries, such as Mexico, Myanmar and Brazil, are facing substantial and growing gaps.

The infrastructure service gap

The reality, however, looks a bit different. The challenge in fulfilling a country's infrastructure need is not achieving an investment figure. It's rather developing a government vision for closing recognised service gaps. This is done by either maintaining existing infrastructure assets and or by building new projects.

Role of the accountant in bridging the gap

When putting together the team, a key player is often missing from the infrastructure project table – the accountant.

The accountant must be brought to the centre of the decision-making process. The particular skills and perspective of the finance professional can mean the difference between success and failure in many cases.

Accountants can play a critical role in bridging the gap at every stage of the project life cycle, from the planning stage to delivery. There are international good practices that accountants can adopt to improve in all areas of the project. For example:

  • Take the lead in applying standard selection tools to determine the need for, and priority of, a project.
  • Advocate a more holistic approach to maintaining fiscal discipline to avoid poor financial decisions driven by 'fiscal illusions'.
  • Implement proper monitoring and oversight for all projects.

Download the report to get the full list of recommendations. These are based on international good practice demonstrating how accountants, governments, and professional bodies can close the infrastructure gap.


ACCA lead, Alex Metcalfe

CPA Canada lead, Davinder Valeri