Almedalen 2024 – Infrastructure investments on the agenda

Almedalen 2024 – Infrastructure investments on the agenda

Last week, Sweden’s annual political event, Almedalsveckan, gathered political leaders, Swedish enterprises, NGOs, and various societal actors on the island of Gotland. Amidst discussions on key societal challenges like national security and the climate crisis, one theme stood out: infrastructure as a catalyst for transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy.

At Infranode, we participated in roundtables, seminars, and meetings to fuel the debate and our mission. One of our Founding Partners, Philip Ajina, hosted a roundtable on the need for collaboration and partnership to deliver on the shared goal of a carbon-neutral society.

“Almedalen was a great place to continue the conversation about the infrastructure investment gap. While the investment needs are significant, there is also a substantial resource and capital shortage and inefficiency in the public sector, affecting the ability to make necessary infrastructure investments with public resources alone. From our perspective, the way forward is to increase collaboration between long-term stakeholders from both the public and private sectors”

says Philip Ajina

Philip’s main insights from the discussions in Almedalen include:

  1. The overwhelming need for infrastructure investments is clear. From renovating existing systems to investing in new, innovative, solutions that support the future we want to build, the financial requirements are staggering. Billions of euros are necessary to achieve the vision of carbon neutrality and build resilient societies. However, there is a catch: the public sector faces a significant resource and capital shortage and inefficiency, impacting its ability to fund essential infrastructure projects using public resources alone. Here other sources of capital, including from institutional investors like pension funds, are ready to be injected into the ongoing transition, providing a vital boost to these efforts.
  2. Balancing act: Public sector capital vs. infrastructure demands. While the need for infrastructure is undeniable, finding the right balance is crucial and a long-term perspective is needed. How can we ensure that critical projects move forward without straining public finances? The answer lies in collaboration. By fostering partnerships between long-term actors from both the public and private sectors, we can bridge the gap and drive sustainable development together.
  3. Joint ownership: A Nordic approach. Joint ownership of infrastructure has already gained traction across Nordic municipalities. This approach not only mobilizes capital but also leverages industrial competence whilst allowing the public sector co-control. By sharing the responsibility, we can fuel the transition towards a more resilient future. This is what we have done at Infranode for over a decade and will continue to advocate for in the years to come.

”Almedalen 2024 emphasized the urgency of infrastructure investments and the great potential in working together to build a carbon-neutral future while securing the resilience of Swedish society and the competitiveness of its industry. The NATO-linked requirements become a further catalyst for change. We note the positive steps taken at the national level by the Swedish government and authorities such as the Transport Authority towards including alternative structuring and financing of infrastructure,”

Says Philip Ajina

He continues:

“The debate and focus are now on transport infrastructure, but it also applies to other sectors including energy, water and sewage, digital, and social infrastructure. As we navigate the delicate balance between public resources and societal needs, collaboration remains our compass”.

Philip sees the following as next steps to be taken by the Swedish government:

  1. Project Identification and Implementation: The government should identify projects open to alternative solutions and appoint a public sector resource responsible for executing these projects.
  2. Membership in EPEC: As the last member state in the EU to join, Sweden should file for membership in the European PPP Expertise Centre (EPEC) to benefit from the lessons learned by other EU countries.
  3. Co-Ownership options in state owned infrastructure projects: Inspired by municipalities, include a co-ownership option in infrastructure projects should be considered.