Monday, December 2, 2013

Germany Also Shorts Infrastructure Spending

NYT (h/t nc links):
Germany was once known for its superfast autobahns, efficient industry and ability to rally public resources for big projects, like integration with the former East Germany. But more recently, it has been forced to confront a somewhat uncharacteristic problem: Its infrastructure — roads, bridges, train tracks, waterways and the like — is aging in a way that experts say could undermine its economic growth for years to come.
As it has been preaching austerity to its neighbors, Germany itself has kept a tight rein on spending at home. Now critics abroad, including the European Union and the United States, are pressing it to do more to stimulate its own economy, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s likely partners in a new coalition government, the left-leaning Social Democrats, are seeking more money for a variety of domestic programs.
A good place to start plowing money into, many experts say, is the nation’s physical underpinnings. A government-appointed commission recently concluded that it needed to spend 7.2 billion euros a year, or $9.7 billion, for the next 15 years — roughly 70 percent more than it spends now — just to get existing infrastructure back into shape. Others say that even more is needed for schools, for instance, and for extending fiber optic cables to less populated areas.
$9.7 billion a year?  That sounds like nothing compared to what ASCE thinks the U.S. needs to spend ($3.6 trillion by 2020.  Admittedly, ASCE isn't exactly a neutral observer).  But still, Germany has about 25% of the number of people as the U.S., and spends a tiny fraction of what the U.S. does on defense spending, so $9.7 billion a year is practically nothing.  To put it in perspective, the Brent Spence Bridge replacement, carrying I-75 across the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky, is expected to cost $2.5 billion by itself.  Anyway, at least we aren't the only extremely short-sighted developed nation.

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