Sustainable Development Goals were basically formulated to ensure acceleration in global economic growth. The economic status of a country or region has its physical reflection in the quality of infrastructure in that particular country/region. The better the infrastructure the better the economy, and vice versa. As set in Sustainable Development Goal 9, the UN’s plan is to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation in a bid to achieve substantial growth in incomes and productivity. The following targets, to be met by 2030, were set with regard to achievement of SDG 9:
- Build quality, resilient, reliable and sustainable national regional and trans-border infrastructure to support human well-being and economic development, with more focus on equitable and affordable access for all.
- Facilitate inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and substantially raise industry’s proportion of employment and GDP, in accordance with national circumstances, and double its share in low-income countries.
- Promote the access of small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly in developing countries, to affordable financial services, including credit, and their assimilation into value markets and chains.
- Retrofit industries and upgrade infrastructure to make them sustainable with greater adoption of environmentally sound and clean industrial processes and technologies and increased resource-use efficiency, with each and every country taking action in line with their respective capacities.
- Promote scientific research, improve the technological capacities of all industrial sectors in all countries, particularly developing nations, including by encouraging innovation and significantly raising the number of development and research workers per one million people and private and public development and research spending.
- Enhance resilient and sustainable development in infrastructure in developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, through enhanced technical, technological and financial support to African countries in the Sub-Sahara, least developed countries, small island developing states and landlocked developing countries.
- By 2020, increase by significant rates access to information and communication technology, and work towards providing affordable universal access to the internet in developing countries, especially the least developed ones.
- Promote development, research and innovation of domestic technology in developing countries by providing a conducive policy environment for industrial diversification, inter alia, and value addition to products.
By 2030 the world is expected to have invested more than $100 trillion in sustainable infrastructure assets, twice the present stock of public capital globally. Unlike in the past century, the bulk of this investment will be in developing nations and the biggest growth will be in countries other than China. Unfortunately at present, the world is not doing what it takes to bridge the infrastructure gap, and the kinds of investments being made are not sustainable. We seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle of low investment and consequently low growth, characterised by infrastructure deficits in spite of the presence of enormous global savings.
Basic infrastructure like railways, roads, information technologies, water systems, electrical power and sanitation are still scarce in almost all developing countries across the planet; 1-1.5 billion people cannot access reliable phone services; 2.6 billion others either cannot access electricity services completely, or are facing difficulties having access on full time basis; 800 million cannot access water supply; and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation materials, all of them from developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and some parts of the Middle East.
Adequate infrastructure is closely connected with achievement of political, social and economic goals. Lack of quality infrastructure results in reduced access to jobs, markets, training and information, creating a barrier to doing business. It limits access to education and health care. For many African countries, specifically low-income ones in the Sub-Saharan region, the existing infrastructure deficits and constraints affect firm productivity and Gross Domestic Product by nearly 40 percent.
Industrialisation, which is an indirect effect of adequate infrastructure, and the resultant job multiplication has also been shown to have a positive impact on social and economic life. Every job in manufacturing, according to a new UNDP report, breeds at least 2 jobs in other sectors of the economy.
In 2009, manufacturing was the employer of around 470 million people all over the world, which is equivalent to 16 percent of the world’s total workforce of 2.9 billion. In 2013, the number of people working in manufacturing industries had grown to half a billion, creating, in the process, more than one billion jobs in other sectors. Typically the biggest job creators and perhaps the most critical building blocks during the early stages of industrialisation, according to the UNDP report, are the micro-, small- and medium-sized ventures that engage in manufacturing and industrial processing. They account for over 90 percent of business and make up between 50-60 percent of employment. With an increase in the number of this form of enterprises projected, the proportion of employment from the same is expected to rise further up to 70% by 2020.
Renewable energy sectors have also been vastly contributive towards the increase in number of job opportunities since the turn of the century. Currently, in countries where data is available, more than 2.3 million people are employed in these sectors. That’s quite a conservative figure keeping in mind the present gaps in information. And due to the increasing demand for energy alternatives, the renewable energy sector is expected to employ more than 20 million people by 2030.
Other industries whose contribution to the society cannot be overlooked include the food and beverages sector, basic and fabricated metal industries, the textile and garments industry and agribusiness in general. There are clear market gaps in the foods and beverages (agro-industry) sector, and textiles and garments, in least developed countries, with good prospects for higher productivity and sustained employment generation. In middle-income countries, entering the basic and fabricated metal industries can prove beneficial not only in employment creation, but also in income generation as there has been a rapidly growing international demand for these products. In developing countries, more than 70 percent of agricultural products are consumed without undergoing industrial processing. The food processing industry is not fully exploited yet, thus, there are great opportunities in agribusiness for developing countries.
Maintaining or upgrading infrastructure can provide a national, regional and even global economic benefit because its positive aspect is often reflected in an area’s GDP, income and wealth levels, and the employment base in the long run. To allow for growth and development, some sectors such as health care, higher education and housing, are also, to some extent, reliant on utility and transportation infrastructure statuses. Thus, for better living standards, faster economic growth and general progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, sustainable infrastructure and industrialisation should be looked at as paramount factors.