India seeks to boost its road infrastructure to the standard seen in the world’s largest economy, while also pushing economic growth, according to Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways.
“There are problems. A strong political will is very important,” Gadkari said at the inaugural MoneyControl Policy Next - The Rs 10 Trillion Infra Push summit in New Delhi. “Where there is a will, there is a way. I like people who get things done.”
The minister accepted that the quality of roads is sometimes a concern and there is room for improvement. He also expressed the desire to set up an organisation focussed on research and development in the sector.
As India aims to become a developed economy by 2047, the government has kept an unrelenting focus on boosting infrastructure. India’s spending on infrastructure has gone up manifold times over the last decade to hit a record Rs 10 trillion for the next financial year.
As part of the same journey, Moneycontrol Policy Next Series of exclusive events was launched on March 23.
Minister Nitin Gadkari, the man behind India’s top infra projects like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, delivered the keynote address on ‘The highway of the future: My vision for India’.
Nothing quite illustrates India's infrastructure push like the money spent and work done by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
In 2015-16, the total allocation for the road ministry was Rs 46,913 crore. The Budget estimate for 2023-24 is more than five-and-a-half times higher at Rs 2.7 lakh crore. But it is not just about increasing expenditure but its quality too: if capital spending accounted for 59 percent of the total allocation for the road ministry in 2015-16, it is seen at 96 percent in 2023-24.
In terms of outcomes, the daily National Highway construction rate is often cited, having hit 36.5 kilometres in 2020-21. Admittedly, that has declined to 24.1 kilometres this year.
A challenge, going ahead, also lies on the monetary front. According to a World Bank report from November, India needs to invest $840 billion over the next 15 years into its urban infrastructure to ensure that the needs of the urban population are met. Assuming an exchange rate of Rs 80 per dollar, this means an annual investment of nearly Rs 4.5 lakh crore on just urban infrastructure.
Only 5 percent of the infrastructure needs of Indian cities are currently being financed through private sources. With the government's current (2018) annual urban infrastructure investments topping at $16 billion, much of the gap will require private financing, the World Bank noted.
Gadkari said that the traditional models of funding infrastructure are being given up for innovative financing instruments like bonds.
Development of new planned highway projects, such as the Panipat-Delhi-Jaipur and several others connecting the national capital to different parts of the country, will ensure that the sector takes off for good, the minister said.
The minister also said that by the end of the year, the Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi- Dehradun flight routes will be closed because of our efficient highways.