Image Courtesy: Rajiv Chaddha
Article Courtesy: The Rise.co.in
The Government of India recently launched an Online Dashboard for the National Infrastructure Pipeline. The move assumes significance as infrastructure projects will help revive the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the monitoring of all infrastructure projects under the Rs. 111-trillion National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) will be possible through a digital platform that ensures access to updated project information for investments across various sectors. These projects will be mapped and evaluated by the departments concerned and the finance ministry to monitor the implementation and actual progress, compared to the initial estimates of the NIP for each project.
According to the Global Infrastructure Outlook 2017 (Oxford Economics), the global requirement of investment in infrastructure between calendar years 2016 and 2040 is expected to reach $94 trillion. An additional $3.5 trillion is required to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in water and electricity. Of this, 50% of the investment needs are in Asia. Electricity and road sectors will constitute over two-thirds of this, followed by telecom, rail, and water sectors.
The report also estimates that India would need to spend $ 4.5 trillion on infrastructure by 2030 to realize the vision of a $5 trillion by 2025, and to continue on an escalated trajectory until 2030. The Logistics Performance Index (LPI) developed and released biannually by the World Bank in its 2018 report ranked India at the 44th spot with a score of 3.18. It shows the fragmented nature of India’s logistics sector. In India, the logistical costs range around 12 to 14% of GDP while the global average is 6%. Logistics and infrastructure are closely intertwined; developments in the infrastructure sectors streamline the logistical ecosystem thereby promoting growth. Coupled with digitization the Govt. can pave way for smooth movement of goods. The broad aims must also be to reduce the logistical costs from the present numbers hovering at 14% of GDP to less than 10% of India’s GDP for which infrastructure development is a key component.
Lessons from China
China modernized its transport infrastructure faster by placing it under prioritization. In the last three decades, China built new superhighways, high-speed trains, modern airports, and automated seaports in the world laying the foundation for China’s fast-growing logistics industry as its economy boomed. Indeed, the total China logistics market has grown from 2 trillion Renminbi in 2001 to 13 trillion Renminbi in 2018. In the same period, the logistics cost share of GDP decreased from 19% to 14.8%, showing improved logistics efficiency. The Chinese logistics market is expected to grow in both quantity and quality. India can learn from China’s experience taking a cue from its success story to ride the next growth wave in infrastructure where logistics is an inseparable component.
The challenge is to increase annual infrastructure investment so that lack of infrastructure does not become a binding constraint on the growth of the Indian economy. On this front, NIP will enable a forward outlook on infrastructure projects which will create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, thereby making growth more inclusive by including economic and social infrastructure projects. Overall the NIP aims to capture both Greenfield and Brownfield projects for investments across all economic and social infrastructure sub-sectors on a best-effort basis.
The infrastructure sector is a driver for the Indian economy which is responsible for propelling India’s overall growth and inclusive development. The infrastructure sector includes power, bridges, telecommunication networks, dams, roads, waterways, airports, logistics, sanitation, and urban infrastructure development.
The NIP dashboard is devised to be linked to the India Investment Grid (IIG) which manages and monitors investments across various sectors capturing data on Investments from States and Central Government. It is also responsible for providing real-time information about the projects for prospective investors. If any approvals are struck in any stage like design, finance, bidding, construction, or operation stage including bureaucratic red tapes it would be highlighted on the dashboard. Each ministry and its respective department will now be responsible for the monitoring of infrastructure projects to ensure their completion in a time-bound manner eliminating delays within the cost-to-benefit ratio thereby reducing wastage of public resources.
The dashboard shall also let the people of the country know how many projects are being implemented. Such a social audit mechanism increases efficiency & promotes a culture of accountability in the functioning of the government.
The Vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat
In the budget speech of 2019-2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an outlay of Rs. 100 lakh Crore for infrastructure projects over the next 5 years. In furtherance to this, a high – level Task Force headed by Economic Affairs Secretary, Atanu Chakraborty submitted a final report on the National Infrastructure Pipeline with projected infrastructure investment of Rs. 111 Lakh Crore during FY 2020-25 to build infrastructure projects and drive economic growth. The report highlights sectors like energy, roads, railways and urban projects that are estimated to account for the bulk of projects which is around 70%. On the funding pattern the union govt. and state govt. are expected to have an almost equal share of 39% and 40% respectively in implementing the projects, while the private sector participates with 21% share in stake. The report also suggested reforms for the infrastructure sector by way of an aggressive push towards asset sales; monetisation of infrastructure assets; setting up of development finance institutions and strengthening the municipal bond market for mobilizing investments.
NIP dashboard is a step in the right direction undertaken by the Government of India. In monetizing the infrastructural assets, public trust plays a crucial role. Online bidding can be considered as part of PM Modi’s Digitization Drive & Minimum Government-Maximum Governance, so as to bring about transparency in bidding. Investment in infrastructure is not only a prerequisite for sustaining a high growth rate for the decades to come but also a sine qua non for broad-based sustainable inclusive growth that assures transgenerational equity and positive externalities socially, economically, and politically.
(Balasubramanian C is a Research Officer at the Chennai Centre for China Studies. His areas of interests include Sino –Russia Relations, Indian Ocean Region, Geo-economics, Security and Strategic Studies. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author)