Private Financing of Public Infrastructure: Will Digital Finance Open the Floodgates?
Center on Finance, Law, and Policy's Monthly Blue Bag Lunch Talks
Peter Adriaens, Professor, Environmental Engineering & Finance, Entrepreneurship & Strategy, School for Environment and Sustainability; Director, Smart Infrastructure Finance Center,
Historically, public infrastructure systems such as roads, water utilities, and schools are financed using a combination of tax revenue, government and revenue-backed bonds. This system has repeatedly fallen short due to insufficient tax revenue and political aversion towards funding “social infrastructure”. Especially for schools, the access to quality infrastructure is highly correlated (in the US) to poverty, stemming from property values, credit worthiness and other factors. A recent bill (not passed) required a 1:6 leverage of federal with state and private finance, compared to 1:12 in Europe and 1:30 proposed under the Climate accords. Either infrastructure has not been built or upgraded, or private capital has stepped in the breach. At the Center for Smart Infrastructure Finance, we're asking whether data-driven models can close the gap by taking advantage of the internet of things (IoT): smart sensors that deliver information which can be monetized. This seminar will explore how private financing models that leverage digital data supply chains to attract 'efficient capital' (e.g. insurance, options trades, debt securities, variable interest rate bonds) can be adapted to financing public infrastructure while limiting recourse to the citizens that use it, and leveling the economic disparities of access.