Tags: Summers | infrastructure | structure | private

Summers: Focus on Nitty Gritty Rather Than Fancy Projects for Infrastructure

By    |   Monday, 08 December 2014 01:06 PM

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has been a forceful advocate for increased government spending on infrastructure.

And he has several ideas on how we should go about improving the infrastructure.

"First, the focus of infrastructure discussions in both the public and the private sector needs to shift from major new projects whose initiation and completion can be the occasion for grand celebration to more prosaic issues of upkeep, maintenance and project implementation," Summers writes in the Financial Times.

For example, repair of existing rail line and stations ought to be considered before embarking on high-speed railway systems.

"Second, accountants in the public and private sector need to develop methodologies for capturing deferred maintenance and showing this in the financial accounts for what it is—borrowing from the future," Summers says.

"Third, the public and the media on their behalf need to be much less accepting of institutional failure," he adds.

"A vicious cycle in which governments perform poorly and so are starved of resources and so perform worse is serious threat to healthy democracy.

"Something similar can happen to business. If owners distrust management they will insist on taking cash out rather than permitting its use for long-term investment. The only answer is prompt and aggressive responses to failure that ensure that it is short-lived," Summers notes.

"More important than any specific remedy, there is a reason beyond the media and the public's own economic problems why there is so much disillusionment with so many institutions. They do not seem to perform as well as they once did. We see it every day."

David Kelly, chief global strategist for JP Morgan Funds, has some doubts on the advisability of a government infrastructure programs.

"I don't think we need to use infrastructure spending to boost demand in the economy," he told NPR Radio's "Here & Now" show. Rather, the private sector can take us to full employment.

"The real question is can you use infrastructure spending to enhance your productivity," Kelly said. "Do we honestly think given our political system and our regulations that we're going to achieve that? . . . I am somewhat skeptical."

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Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has been a forceful advocate for increased government spending on infrastructure.
Summers, infrastructure, structure, private
Monday, 08 December 2014 01:06 PM
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