The Effects of Corruption in Infrastructure Contracts
The neoliberal model adopted in Argentina during the 90s radically changed the role of the state in the provision of public utilities, inaugurating a new market-led model of infrastructure development. After the 2001 crisis, the model as theoretically conceived came to a halt which at the international level notably led to Argentina being the country with the most cases before the ICSID. In domestic politics, this meant that the need to continue to develop infrastructure to serve a growing population met the limits of a formal framework which was inapplicable in the books. Infrastructure development had to be reconfigured on a new foundation for which another “international” discourse became crucial. The place that was used in the past by the neoliberal speech came to be filled (at least partially) by the international human rights discourse. The argentine case serves to illustrate the tensions that arise from the clash of two dominating discourses at the international level.
Global, national and local politics have been subject, lately, to a “turn to infrastructure”. Irrespective of their place in the political spectrum (from ‘the border wall’ to ‘the green new deal’) and of the particular situation of their societies (from the U.S. and China to the third world), everyone insists on the urgent need of new infrastructures to secure prosperity. Taking the development of Argentina’s public-private partnerships (PPP) regime as an example, this presentation explores the role of global public law in establishing infrastructure development as a trump card in public policy debates, taking primacy over other ideals, such as “rights” or “democracy”.
Transnational infrastructural initiatives (TII) can be described as the promotion, facilitation, and instrumentality of a series of related infrastructures across borders. While promotion and facilitation can often be traced back to states and regional organizations, and is basically carried out through diplomacy and public financing, the instrumentality-phase usually brings in the private sector as the key actor, and foreign investment plays a crucial role. TII, typically tied to the advancement of national interests and geostrategic projects, usually share a notion of development, which nevertheless varies significantly across time and space. Simplistically put, there is a perceived divide between value- loaded development ideas, which are attached to the functions of infrastructure, on the one hand, and a notion of infrastructure as economic development, on the other. However, this perception is full of problems and contradictions, which will be addressed in this presentation.