Merrill Lynch has raised its emerging markets infrastructure forecast to $2.25 trillion annually, or 5% of GDP, from $1.25 trillion over the next three years, due to more aggressive government spending programmes and higher analyst estimates.

Infrastructure spending û which Merrill Lynch calls a long-term solution to inflation û is expected to be fuelled by decades of under-investment in power, transportation, and water. Merrill Lynch expects 70% of infrastructure spending to be concentrated in China, the Middle East and Russia.

ôThe higher forecast is due to more aggressive government spending and higher analyst estimates,ö Merrill Lynch says in a report.

To give an example of the infrastructure spending in the pipeline, Merrill Lynch notes that Xstrata recently estimated $22 trillion in emerging markets infrastructure spending in the next 10 years. Xstrata is a global diversified mining group, listed on the London and Swiss stock exchanges. ôThat estimate is among the highest that we have seen, with an implied run rate of $6.6 trillion over the next three years,ö the report says.

Merrill Lynch breaks down its upward revisions in emerging markets infrastructure spending over next three years (new versus old estimates):

China û $725 billion vs $400 billion
Gulf û $400 billion vs $225 billion
Russia û $325 billion vs $195 billion
India û $240 billion vs $110 billion
Brazil û 225 billion vs $100 billion
Mexico û $120 billion vs $60 billion
Turkey û $65 billion vs $50 billion
South Africa û $60 billion vs $60 billion
Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) û $45 billion vs $45 billion

Merrill LynchÆs near doubling in its estimate for China incorporates greater emphasis on transportation spending by the Chinese government and still strong spending in other infrastructure areas such as water. The estimates do not incorporate additional spending needed to rebuild areas stricken by the recent earthquakes.

The new estimate for India factors in the governmentÆs more aggressive position on accelerating infrastructure spending over the next decade. The Indian Planning Commission is signalling ôdiscontinuityö in taking its spending from a business as usual scenario of $300 billion from the Eleventh Five Year Plan to a new higher orbit of $550 billion in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, according to Bharat Parekh, Merrill LynchÆs India engineering and construction analyst.

The investment spending numbers in the Middle East are massive and are climbing steadily with the help of enormous wealth and high energy prices, Merrill Lynch says. The firmÆs estimate is modest compared with the estimate of $480 billion three-year run-rate based on the International Monetary FundÆs numbers.

Bureaucracy is the primary risk to emerging markets infrastructure spending most commonly cited by Merrill LynchÆs regional analysts. ôProjects may be delayed due to decision-making approvals and so on,ö the report notes.

Rising costs for labourers and commodities used for infrastructure projects add to the bureaucracy in the decision making, budgeting and approval processes. They are indicative of tighter supplies of resources and the greater need to allocate across projects.

A collapse in commodity prices will also hinder spending programmes for many resource-linked emerging market countries, especially the Middle East and Russia. A marked deterioration in budget positions in China will slow spending.

Otherwise, budget surpluses, massive foreign currency reserves and large current account surpluses should keep infrastructure spending programmes intact, Merrill Lynch notes.