The big question
So, it’s true. Donald Trump is supposedly going to issue a new infrastructure bill and, according to Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, “it’s going to be big”.
Speaking to a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, Pence said this week that Trump has confirmed proposals for the bill, although – apart from its supposed conceptual size – we are still yet to be given any actual information.
And it is fair to say, we have heard all this before so until we have something official, there remains little to get excited about. Either way, Trump will take office on Friday and he is going to have to act swiftly on these proposals, as the clock is ticking on the need for an overhaul of US transportation.
Politically, it will be a smart move to silence whispers from various quarters that this is just another bit of hot air emanating from the Trump camp. The need for new infrastructure is one area that doesn’t divide too much opinion across the US, so a swift plan of action would go a long way to winning over naysayers from all walks of life.
But as ever, the devil will be in the detail. All this talk of tax breaks for private investors and a rise in P3s is, obviously, good news for the market but without action it means largely nothing. Transportation Secretary-elect Elaine Chao has already been vocal about the use of P3s as part of the plans but like everything else, this remains just words at this stage.
Until we see a tangible plan, the market – and the wider country, for that matter – can be forgiven for remaining cautious. After all, Trump fan or not, it is difficult to deny his complex relationship with the truth. Winning over the market will be only half the battle for Trump when it comes to infrastructure. After all, traditionally, a supportive public is a key part of developing a successful infrastructure plan – especially if it involves P3, as demonstrated in neighboring Canada.
Early signs do not look promising for Trump, however. A poll carried out this week by the Washington Post and ABC News revealed that 66% of people would oppose infrastructure development alongside the private sector, if it included new tolls on US roads and bridges.
And tolling for new roads is highly likely under what Trump is suggesting (in some cases, at least), so it seems he may have something of a mountain to climb as his inauguration looms. But if we have learned anything from the global events in 2016, it is to expect the unexpected.
After all, it is fair to say that Trump has overcome the odds a few times before recently, so it would take a brave man to doubt him again.