Remarks for Deputy Administrator for Asia Javier Piedra for “A Policy Discussion on the Blue Dot Network: Quality Infrastructure and Capital Investments in the Caspian”

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

[As Prepared]

Good morning, everyone. I’d like to thank the Caspian Policy Center for organizing today’s discussion. Thank you for having me.

For more than 25 years, USAID has partnered with the people of the Caspian region to accelerate their countries’ development, promote stability, and foster regional connectivity and cooperation.

As such, I am honored to be here today and to kick off what I’m sure will be a tremendously beneficial panel discussion on the Blue Dot Network and the expansion of quality infrastructure and capital investment in the Caspian region.

The Blue Dot Network will bring together governments, the private sector, and civil society under shared standards for global infrastructure development.

The network will certify infrastructure projects that demonstrate and uphold global infrastructure principles. Certification by the Blue Dot Network will serve as a globally recognized symbol of market-driven, transparent and financially sustainable development projects.

By proposing a common standard of project excellence, the Blue Dot Network will attract private capital to infrastructure projects in developing and emerging economies.

At the heart of today’s discussion is a choice.

It is a critical choice because a nation is only as strong as its infrastructure, and sustainable, high-quality infrastructure requires a framework for attracting sustainable, high-quality financing.

It is a consequential choice because the decisions made NOW by governments in servicing their countries’ infrastructure needs will affect the strength of their economies and the well-being of their people for generations to come.

But, most importantly, it is a choice between dependency and autonomy. As I’m sure you’ll see, the Blue Dot Network recognizes and facilitates each nation’s journey to self-reliance through responsible infrastructure development. The vision put forward by the Blue Dot Network is one of shared success built on innovative thinking, complementarity of interests and shared values - a vision that unites all of us in a common purpose to advance economic stability through mutually beneficial interconnectivity.

It is no secret that the world is in dire need of infrastructure projects that embody transparency, accountability, and resilience and are also financially, environmentally, and socially responsible.

 As the countries of the Greater Caspian region look to attract international business, increase economic prosperity and realize the vision of a new Silk Road, robust investment into critical infrastructure such as ICT, energy, pipelines and transportation routes remains critical for sustainable long-term enterprise-driven development.

But the need of sustainable infrastructure transcends the Caspian. According to the G20 Global Infrastructure Hub, global infrastructure investment needs for 2020 are currently over $2.5 trillion and approximately $94 trillion of investments will be needed to meet infrastructure demand by 2040. As of 2019, global investments in emerging markets stood at approximately $400 billion.

Indeed, the demand for investment is massive, far more than the current spending levels of both the public and private sectors combined.

But is it not true that good infrastructure investment is tremendously necessary? Sound infrastructure not only generates local employment during construction; it allows for new and increased opportunities in education, transportation, research, logistics, and trade.

Along with infrastructure comes jobs, and with jobs, stability and family stability. It also tends to reduce out-migration.

In contrast to the certification that BDN would provide, many infrastructure projects end up below quality and, even, slapstick, often unreliable, over budget and, even, dangerous. Doesn’t it make sense to adhere to widely agreed upon best practices from the get-go than risk huge problems down the road?

It is with this in mind and with a deep desire to help build the next generation of infrastructure that USAID, the DFC and the Dept. of State have championed the Blue Dot Network.

The Blue Dot Network aims to promote quality infrastructure investment that is open, inclusive, transparent, economically viable, financially, environmentally and socially sustainable, and compliant with international standards, laws, and regulations.

The Blue Dot Network will be a mechanism that will empower countries to work with qualified private sector partners to pursue clear and transparent infrastructure investments that serve the long-term interests of their citizens.

In closing, I would like to make reference to the origins of the term “blue dot”. It is a phrase pulled from a quote by Carl Sagan, a great astronomer and a great American. In 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft captured a portrait of our earth from 4 billion miles away.

At this distance, the earth appeared as but a tiny pale blue dot surrounded by the dark cosmic expanse. Sagan later commented that, to him, this distant image of our tiny world underscored our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

 It is our hope that the Blue Dot Network will manifest this call for collaboration, for unity and for a steadfast resolve to help not just ourselves but each other thrive, together on our pale blue dot.

Thank you for your attention and I will now hand it back to you, Efgan.

Last updated: September 14, 2020

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