Date: 4/25/00 7:06

Subject: Superlielceli uz bagatibu

Sodien man pazinoja Moscow Times ka ta pienema publikacijai redakcijas lapaa manu komentaru "Superhighways to Prosperity." Moscow Times ir galvena anglu valodas avize Maskava. So rakstu uzrakstiju ka alternativu pieeju stimulet austrumeiropas ekonomisko attistibu kadam musdienigam Marshall Planam. Ieteikta superlielcelu buve ir konkrets projekts, iedomajams un saprotams balsotajiem. Vidvuds


The information superhighway is integrating the global economy. The rich are getting richer. UPS, FEDEX and DHL deliver packages overnight as e-commerce speeds up the pace of business in the US and Western Europe. East Central Europe is being left behind. With poor roads where delivery times sometimes stretch to weeks the value added of business to business e-commerce to Russia disappears in the noise level, the clackety clack of trains and bumps in the road. Much of the region continues to stagnate at levels below economic performance achieved in 1989 before Communism collapsed. There is no clear vision how the decade long transformation to free enterprise and market economies will lead to the prosperity matching that of the West. Mired in stagnation the region looms as a threat to the stability of the rest of the continent.

A superhighway system that linked all major towns and cities from the Urals to the Atlantic and the Baltic to the Black Sea would fundamentally change the economic prospects of East Central Europe. This is the necessary ingredient to fulfill the promise of the Internet for the region. Physical goods need to be delivered to customers whose location is real and not in some virtual realm. Achievement of real prosperity demands good roads, superhighways. Superhighways foster economic integration, create jobs and stimulate industrial development.

On June 29, 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway act that provided for 90% Federal financing of the 68,000 km Interstate Highway System. Eisenhower had early direct experience of the need for a superhighway system in 1919 as a part of the first transcontinental military convey that took 62 days to go from Washington DC to San Francisco. Now, fresh lettuce is carried from California to grocery shelves in Washington DC in about two days by truck. The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System created a continental market that enabled the US to achieve a more than 10 fold increase in national prosperity in the following decades.

Eisenhower's systems vision enabled integrated development that linked major road construction projects in all of the states of the continental US. The alternative, to develop an interstate highway system piecemeal, state by state without unified authority, would take much more time, ultimately cost much more, the roads would not be fully integrated and the economic benefits a fraction of what is possible. It was crucial to have an interstate organization to plan, finance and develop the US Interstate Highway System. The network is the solution. US experience shows that truck and inter-modal rail - truck systems are far more efficient in the delivery of goods than rail alone. Rail has a clear place and clearly would benefit from the increased economic activity in East Central Europe that would result from the construction of an integrated superhighway system to serve the region.

What if the countries of East Central Europe decided to build their own Interstate Highway System? The US system was built at a cost roughly equal to that of the Marshal Plan - $24 billion in 1956 dollars, perhaps $200 billion in 2000 dollars factoring in both inflation and improvements in road construction methods and technology. The number of people in the region is roughly comparable - to the US, upwards of 250 millions. The number of direct jobs created would range upwards of 200,000. Indirect jobs from all the supporting and benefiting industries would grow to millions of new jobs in the region in the coming decades. A transportation financing and construction authority representing the participating countries in the region would foster unprecedented collaboration that would have spillover effects in other sectors of the economy and life of the people.

Western Europe already has good roads. Superhighways in East Central Europe are not likely to be a high priority for farmers in France. But high unemployment is a concern for all of Europe. A massive construction project can generates jobs in the West as well as the East benefiting Chelyabinsk, Turin, Stuttgart and Peoria. Europeans would benefit through sales of equipment and engineering expertise, as would the Americans. The construction of the superhighways would give a major boost to push countries in the region out of stagnation generating greater demand for production elsewhere in Europe. Mere knowledge of where the roads would be built would stimulate the economic development of the affected regions. The interstate highway system itself would promote the economic integration of the region from the Atlantic to the Urals helping to eliminate the threat of war on the European continent.

Construction of the US Interstate Highway System was made possible through 90% Federal financing based on a tax on fuel. 10% of financing came from the state where the highway was to be built. At present few countries in East Central Europe could step up to construction of superhighways on their territories. Especially if linking roads were not already planned in neighboring countries. If only 10% of construction costs had to be borne through the budget of Russia and other countries in the region the project becomes thinkable.

How could the other 90% share of construction costs be financed? The superhighways could be financed through use charges. Use charges could be collected from smart tags that the driver would periodically recharge through his or her bank. The technology for such systems already exists. Such a project would be perfect for the World Bank, the EBRD and other development financing institutions that can offer the required 20+ year financing . The borrower would be a regional highway authority backed by the member governments. The primary question is not the feasibility of the project. It is manifestly feasible. The question is where is the Eisenhower who could provide the leadership to bring together the countries of East Central Europe to build a superhighway system that benefits them all?

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