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Tuesday 12 November 2019
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Bridging the global infrastructure gap

ACCA column

Leo Lee, former president of ACCA.
Leo Lee, former president of ACCA.

ACCA’s immediate past president Leo Lee, recently presented at the CAROSAI XI Congress in Guyana. He delivered on the topic ‘Investment needs for infrastructure globally’. Lee’s message hit at the heart of the impact of climate change on countries like Guyana that are faced with rapid change that will impact how and where countries invest and what governments invest in across the world. These variables will also impact whether humanity dodges the bullet of catastrophic climate change.

Lee indicated that the accounting profession is perfectly positioned, primed and prepared to make a crucial intervention in the gravest issues facing the world. He added that there is a real appetite among the world’s strategic policy leaders to call on the accounting profession to help make the big investment decisions that affect everyone.

ACCA partnered with the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada to write a report called "How accountants can bridge the global infrastructure gap." It is based on data supplied by thousands of professionals across more than 100 countries in every continent. It assesses what societies across the world will have to spend to sustain economic stability and social cohesion – to close a global infrastructure gap – in the face of massive challenges.

ACCA’s report states that accountants can play a critical role with governments in closing this infrastructure gap – which is on track to hit a staggering US$14 trillion over the next decade. They can do so by improving the selection, the financing and the delivery of projects. More importantly, that investment has to be based on a more sustainable future for all. Because infrastructure is the foundation on which our social and economic well-being is built.

Lee advised that all around the world, national, regional and local governments make decisions that serve the public and play a critical role in building and maintaining infrastructure. Forces such as demographics, rising cyber threats, urbanisation and climate change are all increasing the global demand for high-quality infrastructure.

Lee drew reference to the notion of investment and how it is about so much more than money, and the narrow quest for financial return. He added that countries can also invest in ideas, in education and in people, in hope, in aspirations and in the future. He brought to the fore the very real example of Guyana in 2005 when it endured one of the earliest and deadliest signs of climate catastrophe when Hurricane Emily hammered into Central America and the Caribbean. In Guyana, the hurricane brought freak rainfall triggering devastating floods that swept away everything in their path.

The effects of that hurricane gave rise to such initiatives like the Green State Development project, which is turning the town of Bartica into a model green community, and uniting the whole country in an effort to create a sustainable future. Lee stated, “It is an inspiring example of cooperation, involving government, business, civic leaders, and labour with organisations including the Guyana Women Miners Association. ACCA is eager to play its part in supporting initiatives like this across the Caribbean, with the accountancy profession serving as the guardians and champions of ethical investing and the primacy of the public interest.”

He urged the audience of Caribbean auditor generals and decision makers to use its influence, expertise and professional skills to influence how governments invest. For the sake of the prosperity and the actual survival of millions across the world, investment must be about more than short-term financial return.

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