Infrastructure investment has been a recurrent issue within the G20 agenda in the past decade as one element of the structural reforms to support growth. It has also been in the scope of the T20 since its foundation in 2012. In 2020, the work of the T20 Saudi Arabia on infrastructure was set to focus on investment and financing, in continuity with the Economic Effects of Infrastructure Investment and its Financing taskforce of the T20 Japan although with more attention to the role of the private sector, a priority also reflected by the IWG.
The T20 Saudi Arabia taskforce on infrastructure has issued 16 policy-briefs, out of 29 initial proposals, 25 submitted abstracts and 19 submitted drafts. They are available on the T20 Saudi Arabia website. 11 policy-briefs have been selected and referenced by the T20 final Communiqué, the result of the engagement of 56 co-authors from 46 different research institutions and think-tanks, representing 16 of the G20 members.
The T20 taskforce policy-briefs have brought up ca. 80 proposals and ideas, across four main areas:
- digitalization and technological innovation,
- finance, capital and investment strategies,
- climate change biodiversity and nature-based solutions,
- multilateralism, development (Africa), cross-border cooperation.
The work has also unfolded across three cross-cutting issues:
- raising infrastructure efficiency, finance transparency and reviewing spill-over effects in support of private sector investors,
- operationalizing the Quality Infrastructure Investment principles, and expanding them as Quality and Sustainable Infrastructure Investment principles,
- standardizing of upstream planning and infrastructure resilience metrics.
As a result, five policy-recommendations area have been consolidated in the final T20 Communiqué, promoting ‘innovative frameworks to help bridge the investment gap for sustainable and resilient infrastructure.’
The Covid-19 crisis: disruptions, adaptations and new orientations, not yet solutions
The Covid-19 pandemic has been gradually included in the scope of the T20 Saudi Arabia after spring 2020, within a disrupted global context.
Several policy-briefs of the Infrastructure taskforce have focused on the impacts and causes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Addressing the Covid-19 crisis has also been central in the two webinars held by the infrastructure taskforce in May and September, including exchanges with the G20 IWG. Other taskforces of the T20 have dealt with infrastructure issues as a response to the Covid-19 crisis, which includes the support to the most vulnerable groups (proposal 14), sustainable and climate resilient growth and recovery (proposal 23), energy security and market stability (proposal 26) and digital trade (proposal 29). The ad-hoc taskforce on Covid-19 set up by the T20 has also released innovative proposals to re-profile infrastructure issues in a longer-term perspective.
At last, it is worth noting that the Global Solutions Initiative has echoed and complemented the work of the T20 on infrastructure investment and financing by devoting four global tables to the topic and by launching an innovative Global Dialogue series.
2021: time for a breakthrough
There have been three milestones on infrastructure investments within the G20 since the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis: that of post-crisis recovery in 2010 with the launch of ‘comprehensive infrastructure actions plans’ and the establishment of a ‘high level panel for infrastructure investment’, that of growth support strategies in 2014 and the release of a ‘Global Infrastructure Initiative’ and that of prioritizing sustainable growth with the ‘Quality Infrastructure Investment’ principles in 2019. The T20 was instrumental in providing proposals and recommendations since its creation in 2012, in particular in 2019.
With latest growth forecasts of -4,4% decline of the global GDP in 2020 and many uncertainties lying ahead (IMF, Oct. 2020, World Bank, Oct. 2020), the Covid-19 crisis marks the end of a decade of recovery and growth strategies which the infrastructure agenda of the G20 was largely designed to support. Although there were also many prevailing fragilities in the global system (economy, society, environment, multilateralism…) echoed by the G20 leaders, the global community, including the T20, was largely caught off-guard by the pandemic crisis.
In 2021, the think-tank community has a historic responsibility to release robust policy-proposals, across social, physical and digital infrastructure to building forward better and lay the foundations of a new, more inclusive, sustainable economy.
 The Seoul Summit Document, G20 South-Korea in Seoul, 2010.
 Think20 Meeting, Report to the Sherpas, Think20 Mexico, March 2012
 T20 Saudi Arabia Communiqué, Nov. 1, 2020, Proposal 10.
 The ad-hoc T20 Taskforce 11 (COVID-19) Multidisciplinary Approaches to Complex Problems has issued 18 policy-briefs (see inter alia: A sustainable urbanization and infrastructure response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Buchoud, Parnell, Cohen et al.)