The chair of Iceland’s pension fund association has described as a “sad fact” the stagnant level of infrastructure allocation within its members’ investment portfolios overall, saying pension fund leaders are open to taking part in public infrastructure projects.

Hilmar Harðarson, chair of the Icelandic Association of Pension Funds (LL), said at the lobby group’s annual general meeting: “It is a sad fact that for the past seven years, pension funds have maintained a strong fund for infrastructure investments and expressed interest in participating in such projects. Little to nothing happens.”

Harðarson, who is also chair of Icelandic pension fund Birta, said he was reminded that Hrafn Magnússon, the then managing director of LL, had asked him to discuss that same agenda item at a meeting of the association back in 2003.

“I then calculated that the proportion of Icelanders’ pension funds in infrastructure was less than 1% and now, almost two decades later, it is still about 1%,” he said, according to an account of the 24 May meeting on the lobby group’s website.

LL said infrastructure investment had been the main topic of discussion at the lunch meeting following last week’s AGM.

Leaders of pension funds were, and had been, open to participating in building community infrastructure, Harðarson said. Such cooperation would have made it possible to accelerate much-needed social projects and at the same time invest the assets of pension fund members, he added.

The Reykjavik-based lobby group’s chair cited construction projects in the transport system, and said it would be easy to find other examples.

According to a report from the Confederation of Icelandic Industries, the accumulated need for maintenance in infrastructure in Iceland was ISK420bn –  equivalent to 14.5% of GDP, Birta’s chief executive officer Ólafur Sigurðsson told the association at the post-AGM lunch.

“Community infrastructure is important for economic growth, innovation and productivity development,” he said.

“Each government takes over from another but nothing happens,” he said, adding that the OECD had directly encouraged nation states to obtain private capital for infrastructure investment.

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