The Infrastructure Minister defends unprofitable projects

By: Thomas Ström 2/26/16

Perhaps I don’t have the whole picture before me, but more often than not I have great difficulties understanding several politicians and the decisions they make.
In my latest blog post I wrote about a group of traffic researchers who suggest that a large part of the big investments being made to build rails and roads in Sweden are downright unprofitable.
Now, I also wish to convey what Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson (S) has to say about this matter.
According to various media, she argues that "politicians actually have to push these investments to steer the society in new ways."

Anna Johansson (S) is not actually contradicting the researchers. But she’s saying that the calculations are not taking into account the major changes occurring in our society, e.g. that the population is set to grow significantly faster than what was believed a few years ago.

In particular, she claims that the politicians who are making the decisions in practice must take into account many more things than what can fit into the economic analyses.
She says: "As politicians we cannot just follow the forecasts; what we want is to influence the development of society. If, for example, the objective is to be able to live and work in all of Sweden, you have to accept that we may carry out some unprofitable projects".

The next big project, which the researchers believe to be highly unprofitable, is the prospect of a high-speed rail in Sweden. Here, the forecasts proved that the venture will become economically unprofitable. Nevertheless, despite the strong criticism towards the project, the work of the rails is in full swing.

When it comes to the high-speed rails, Anna Johansson is quoted in the media in the following manner: "The high-speed railways are extremely important in order to achieve better relations and enhance the railway’s capacity. As it is now, the trails will be built, but there is a great uncertainty about the costs, the benefits attained and also how the funding should be solved. The project cannot crowd out other initiatives."

What does she mean, really? It is clear that all of the billions of Swedish crowns which will be needed for the high-speed rails will be taken from other infrastructure projects. What will happen, for example, with the necessary double rail between Gothenburg and Oslo? Will it ever happen if the high-speed rails become a reality? I don’t think so.
But as I said; I have difficulties understanding how a large part of our elected politicians think.

Picture: railroad tracks from Shinkansen, a highspeed railway network in Japan. Photo: By Tennen-Gas via Wikimedia Commons