INFRASTRUCTURE: THE KEY TO RAPID GROWTH

Like most of the developing countries, Indian economy is also a diversified and resilient in nature. Similarly, like most of the developing countries, huge sums of funds are being spent on the development of infrastructure, both in the private as well as in the public sectors. But, it is felt that the infrastructure spending is shorter than what is ideally required for achieving the required higher growth rate. As per the estimation of the Planning Commission of India, the total requirement of funds for financing the infrastructure requirements during the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) is to the tune of USD 500 billion, which is about 2.5 times of the funds provided for this purpose during the Tenth Five Year Plan.

Realizing that the government may not be able to fund the huge requirement for infrastructure projects required to be taken up for rapid growth of the economy, the Union government and various State governments have come up with the required Public-Private Partnership (PPP) framework to facilitate the private participation in the infrastructure sector in a big way. The government has also asked the Infrastructure Investment Finance Company to earmark a corpus of over 8.15 billion US dollars for this purpose. This is in addition to $320 billion to be spent by the government for up-gradation of sea ports, railroads, highways and airports over the next about 15 years.

A massive 494 billion dollar investment is proposed in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-12), which would increase the share of infrastructure investment in this sector from 5 per cent of the GDP at the beginning of Eleventh Plan to 9 per cent

during the Plan. This massive investment in the infrastructure sector is envisaged through huge doses of public spending through several flagship national programmes, as well as through active participation of the private sector in this gigantic effort. To facilitate PPP in infrastructure sectors, the government has not only introduced the model concession agreements but also permitted increased percentages of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in various sectors. Major expansion of infrastructure in the sub-sectors like

railways, ports, civil aviation, road, power, telecommunications and housing is planned to be achieved during the plan period. Urban infrastructure is targeted to be strengthened through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission, while the general rural infrastructure is proposed to be up-graded through implementation of national programmes like Bharat Nirman, Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana, and National Rural Health Mission etc.

Private Participation
Policy makers realise that the basic goal of inclusive development laid down for the Eleventh Five Year Plan may not be achieved if the basic infrastructure facilities are not available in the urban as well as rural areas of the country. In this regard, the participation of the private sector is considered to be very important. Partnership with the private sector had been continuing in the country during the past several years but there was no defined uniform policy and legal framework till recently. With a view to facilitate the private and foreign investors to pump funds into Indian infrastructure projects, and to standardize the concessions to be extended

to the private investors under the PPP, the government of India carried out special workshops in various parts of the country. Main objectives of these workshops were to bring out the developmental relevance of the PPP in the current context, assist interested in the PPP to go ahead, understand and address the concerns of the potential PPP investors, and international experience sharing from successful PPP models across the world.

The government of India has set up a PPP cell in the Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs. It is also felt that many PPP projects may not be economically viable but are essentially required to be executed. For such projects, Viability Gap Funding (VGF) Scheme has been introduced. This is a special facility aimed at supporting such infrastructure projects which are economically and socially justifiable but are not commercially viable. Under the VGF Scheme, upfront assistance upto 20 per cent of the project cost can be sanctioned as grant for such PPP projects.

No facilitation is complete without making institutional arrangements for financing. The government of India has set up India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL) as a wholly government-owned company to facilitate longterm funding of infrastructure projects. IIFCL provides direct financing, as well as refinancing of such projects in public, private or PPP sector.

The government has also paid special attention towards the capacity building at the Central and State levels. Capacity building needs include training of the key personnel, development of standard toolkits, Model Concession Agreements,

development of Project Manuals, preparation of standard bidding documents, consultancy support and project preparation manuals. This effort is also being supported by the Asian Development Bank.

Over the past three to four years, the government of India has worked towards creating institutional framework to facilitate it. But at the same time, the overall environment is very important before the private investors commit funds into such projects. Simplicity of government procedures, reduction in corruption level and reduction in time taken for decision making in government are some of the areas of concern that may have to be addressed before the PPP picks up in the country. Efficiency in government as well as enforcement of market-driven tariffs are two other important determinants of the enabling environment.

Precursor to Rapid Growth
Infrastructure development has been identified as an effective tool for taking the economy out of the effects of global recession. There has been stiff increase in the proposed expenditure for infrastructure projects particularly in the rural areas. Hefty 31 per cent increase has been proposed in the interim Budget 200910 for Bharat Nirman programme, aimed at strengthening the rural infrastructure in the country. This would not only increase the economic activity in the countryside but would also provide the rural people with the required infrastructure and increased employment opportunities.

One of the ambitious ongoing infrastructure projects is the Golden Quadrilateral Project, which is aimed at improving the road infrastructure on the highways/expressways connecting major cities of the country. The Project, on completion, would connect the metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata with expressways. It is the largest expressway project of the country, aimed at constructing 5,846 kilometres of six/four lane express highways at a cost of Rs 60,000 crores. Its North South and East West sections are nearing completion while the work on other sections is going on.

Road infrastructure, world class telecommunications, availability of efficient sea ports and airports, capacity creation in electricity generation and strong rural and urban infrastructure were some of the areas identified for improvement by the policy makers. After the planning stage, it is now the implementation stage and it is expected that within next five to ten years, India would have all the world class infrastructure facilities available.

In addition to creation of sustainable infrastructure in the country, the government effort would also result in ensuring huge doses of investment into the economy, including the rural economy, at a time when most of the western and developed markets are reeling under the influence of worldwide recession. Investment in this sector has ensured that the economy grew at 7 per cent during the previous financial year, when the world growth rate was around one per cent. During the current fiscal also, when the world economy is likely to record zero growth rate, Indian economy may still record reasonable growth rate.

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