India’s growth plans and actions taken to achieve 5T$ economy has got a set back by the World III the war with the invisible enemy Covid. More than the actual attack of this virus is the self-inflicted by the way this is getting publicised and trying to bring down progress and all that is good for the country and people. Here the challenge is not only to fight the pandemic but also get the people moral and confidence back in place. This has given a hugh set back to some of the ongoing projects, but all should get back on track soon. Increased impetus to develop infrastructure in the country is attracting both domestic and international players. Private sector is emerging as a key player across various infrastructure segments, ranging from roads and communications to power and airports. In order to boost the construction of buildings in the country, the Government of India has decided to come up with a single window clearance facility to accord speedy approval of construction projects. India ranked second in the 2019 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index.
Infrastructure sector is a key driver for the Indian economy. The sector is highlyresponsible for propelling India’s overall development and enjoys intense focus from Government for initiating policies that would ensure time-bound creation of world class infrastructure in the country. Infrastructure sector includes power, bridges, dams, roads, and urban infrastructure development. India was ranked 44 out of 167 countries in World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) 2018. India ranked second in the 2019 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Construction Development sector (townships, housing, built up infrastructure and construction development projects) stood at US$25.66 billion during April 2000 to March 2020, according to Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). The logistics sector in India is growing at a CAGR of 10.5% annually and is expected to reach US$215 billion in 2020.
In FY20, the cumulative growth of the eight core industries stood at 0.6%. In the road’s sector, the Government’s policy to increase private sector participation has proved to be a boon for the infrastructure industry as many private players are entering the business through the public-private partnership (PPP) model. India is expected to become the third largest construction market globally by 2022. India plans to spend US$1.4 trillion on infrastructure during 2019-23 to have a sustainable development of the country.
Large investments in infrastructure have provided momentum to the overall PE (Private Equity)/VC (Venture Capital) investment in India, recording an all-time high investment of US$14.5 billion in 2019. All the villages in India were to be connected through a road network by 2019 under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Also, to upgrade 125,000 kms. of road length over the next five years, an estimated cost of INR. 80,250 crores (US$ 12.03 billion) is envisaged under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana-III (PMGSY). Road building in India has become the second cheapest in Asia.
As per Union budget 2020-21, INR. 72,216 crores (US$ 10.33 billion) has been allocated to the Ministry of Railways. The Government is also working on improving the country’s energy infrastructure and investment opportunities worth INR. 21 lakh crores (US$ 300 billion) will be available in the sector in the coming 10 years.
Highway construction in India increased at 20.57% CAGR during FY14-FY19. In FY19, 10,855 km of highways were constructed. NHAI (National highways Authority of India) will be able to generate revenue of INR. 1 lakh crore (US$ 14.31 billion) from toll and wayside amenities during 2019-23. In April 2020, the Government set a target of constructing roads worth INR.15 lakh crore (US$ 212.80 billion) in the next two years.The infrastructure sector has become the biggest focus area for the Government of India. In Union Budget 2020-21, the Government has announced INR. 91.82 billion (US$ 13.14 billion) for road transport and highways. For FY21, budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has been increased to INR. 3,049 crores (US$429.25 million) from INR. 2,670 crores (US$376.16 million) in FY20.
According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), construction development and infrastructure activities sectors received FDI inflow amounting to US$25.66 billion and US$16.84 billion, respectively, between April 2000-March 2020.In 2019, the sector witnessed seven mergers and acquisition (M&A) deals worth US$1,461 million.
India requires investment worth INR.50 trillion (US$ 777.73 billion) in infrastructure by optimistic estimates around 2022 to have sustainable development in the country. India is witnessing significant interest from international investors in the infrastructure space. Some of the key investments made in the sector are listed below:
- Large investment in infrastructure has seen momentum as overall PE (private equity)/VC (venture capital) investment touched an all-time high of US$ 14.5 billion in 2019.
- The largest deal was done by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Public Sector Pension Investment Board and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund as they made investment worth US$ 1.1 billion in GVK Airport Holdings Ltd.
- In FY20, the cumulative growth of eight core industries stood at 0.6%.
- As on 31 March, 02 million households got electricity connection under the Saubhagya Scheme.
- In 2019, infrastructure sector witnessed seven merger and acquisition (M&A) deals worth US$1,461 million.
- India’s infrastructure sector has witnessed unparalleled growth over the last decade, with technological integration now becoming a major focus for its ecosystem.
- The need for using smart technology in the infrastructure sector comes from a variety of reasons, which range from stakeholder management to project delivery
- How the inclusion of technology can help the sector grow, scale, and can impact the business scenario in a multitude of domains is something we’veanalysed in this article
As India sets its target on becoming a US$5 trillion economy in the next few years, the infrastructure sector has never been as dynamic as it is today – having moved from the domain of utilities and public service providers to becoming the focus of policy dialogues. And while the push from the Government remains on large-scale infrastructure development for industrial growth, there are multiple factors within the infrastructure industry that need to be (and to a fair extent, are being) considered for the sector’s future growth.
An opportunity has arisen for the infrastructure construction industry to be reimagined and redesigned because of the advent of new technologies and their seamless crossover and integration with other functions; as well as the evolutions occurring in business models and consumer behaviour patterns.
There is also an underlying implication that the roles of involved stakeholders need to be revisited for the development and delivery of infrastructure and servicesrespectively, consequently making them more suited to the new times. In doing so, the following three key considerations play a critical role:
Design Optimized Construction
The existing system is rather archaic and its reluctance to adopt new technology is slowing the process of constructing any infrastructure project.
Using IoT devices and artificial intelligence, stakeholders can use a supervised learning system from collected environmental data, building data, material data, etc. to identify the best ways to develop not only infrastructure but also the community it impacts.
The process of quality control is tedious but crucial, especially from the context of future end-users of the infrastructure. Neural networks, the foundation of AI itself, could help with this process when reimaged from the context of how an infrastructure project is developed.
Neural networks of a construction can be created using drone imagery of the project, and various construction inconsistencies against existing models can be compared. Stakeholders will be able to spot any issues or potential threats to a construction before they occur, thus saving on cost and time, as well as invaluable lives.
Managing a construction project has a host of factors that need to be considered, with each one having the potential to delay a project for damagingly long durations. Technology can not only help with monitoring these tasks on a real-time basis but also make necessary alterations without too much manual intervention or can flag off a possible incidence even before it occurs. These can range from providing contractors with project risks and constructability, to the structural stability of various technical solutions for large commercial projects, single homes, and more complex infrastructure projects.
In India, the rapidly increasing demand for timely delivery of projects has been a primary driver of the global infrastructure market towards reengineered processes and technologies. Various industrial segments that are a part of this sector internationally, are adopting automation systems to not only increase efficiency in project execution but also to reduce the burden on labour, consequently making the market grow at a significant pace.
However, the infrastructure sector in India continues to follow manual processes and has not adopted automation as per global standards. Even today, this remains a pressing concern and challenge resulting in the slow growth of the unorganised infrastructure sector in India.
Given the current dynamics of the Indian economy, both domestic and foreign businesses are betting big on the future of infrastructure sector’s growth in India; and collaborations between parties through joint ventures and consortiums will facilitate the execution of the various PPP projects. With a competitive and well-qualified talent pool, India presents the opportunity for the inclusion of new technologies and practices in the construction industry; and this scope extends itself from Tier-1 metros to semi-urban tier-2 cities as well.It would be safe to say that while the future of the Indian economy and market looks bright, it will need to be constructed with meticulous thought.
The Government of India is expected to invest highly in the infrastructure sector, mainly highways, renewable energy, and urban transport.In April 2020, the Government set a target of constructing roads worth INR. 15 lakh crore (US$ 212.80 billion) in the next two years.
- In May 2020, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) achieved major milestone by digging up a 440-metre-long tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94).
- Indian energy sector is expected to offer investment opportunities worth US$ 300 billion over the next 10 years.
- NHAI will be able to generate revenue of one lakh crore (US$14.31 billion) from toll and wayside amenities over the next five years.
- In the Union Budget 2020-21, the Government has given a massive push to the infrastructure sector by allocating 169,637 crores (US$ 24.27 billion) to develop the transport infrastructure.
- Communication sector has been allocated 38,637.46 crore (US$5.36 billion) to develop post and telecommunications departments.
- Indian Railways has received an allocation of 72,216 crores (US$ 10.33 billion) under Union Budget 2020-21.
Global Infrastructure Investment &Gap
Globally, the need for infrastructureinvestment is forecast to reach US$94 trillion by2040, and a further US$3.5 trillion will be requiredto meet the United Nations’SustainableDevelopment Goals for electricity and water.Outlook reveals where investment is mostlikely to fall short, and therefore where theneeds are greatest, across 50 countries andseven sectors. It considers what investment isneeded and what is likely to occur based on arange of factors, such as a country’s historicinfrastructure spending levels and how itspopulation and economy is changing, henceidentifying investment gaps.
The Americas and Africa, by contrast, areforecast to have proportionally muchlargerinfrastructure investment gaps. In theseregions’ investment gap is 32% and 28%respectively of investment need. Africa’sinvestment gap is forecast to widen further to43% if investment need includes SDGs.
Global Investment Needs, 2016 – 2040
|% of GDP||Current Trends (CT)||Investment Need (IN)||GAP (IN – CT)|
Global Investment themes in Post COVID 19
Long – term thematic investing involves looking at a change.
- Demographic Change like an aging population.
- Climate change, and the need for new infrastructures.
- Technology Trends.
Critical Infrastructure in India
The Finance Ministry (FM) focused on infrastructure as part of her second theme for the Union Budget i.e., economic development. As regards infrastructure, the focus has been on transportation and connectivity as well as increasing the solar power generation capacity, in the backdrop of the larger theme of ‘Aspirational India’ being development for all.
In line with the overall “SabkaSaath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas” principle, the FM also proposed that the National Skill Development Agency would give a special thrust to infrastructure-focused skill development opportunities considering the huge employment potential of the infrastructure sector. A project preparation facility for infrastructure projects is also proposed to be set up. This step is significant, given that the lack of capacity with the relevant expertise has been identified as a major requirement for the sector.
Investments in Infrastructure Sector
Tax Exemptions for Sovereign Wealth Funds
One of the most significant announcements for the infrastructure sector was the 100% tax exemption granted to sovereign wealth funds of foreign governments in respect of their interest, dividend and capital gains income from investments made in infrastructure and other notified sectors before March 21, 2024. The only conditionality placed on such exemption is a minimum lock-in period of 3 years.
The aforesaid move should incentivize further investment in India by sovereign wealth funds that generally make longer term investments in socially relevant sectors as compared to other foreign funds.
National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)
In consonance with one of the prominent themes of the FM for the Union Budget i.e., a caring society, the Union Budget aims to improve the physical quality of life through the NIP. The NIP was launched by the FM on December 31, 2019. As per the PIB release dated December 31, 2020, the total project capital expenditure in infrastructure sectors in India during the fiscals 2020 to 2025 was projected at over INR 10.2 trillion.
The FM indicated that the NIP would consist of over 6,500 projects. As per the FM, about INR 220 billion has already been provided, as support to NIP, which would cater for equity support to infrastructure finance companies such as IIFCL and a subsidiary of NIIF. As per the Union Budget, such companies would leverage it, as permissible, to create financing pipeline of more than INR 1 trillion which would in turn create a major source of long-term debt for infrastructure projects.
In our view, the NIP is a critical measure that would boost investments in the infrastructure sector. However, given the mammoth proposal, the financing of the NIP may be a challenge.
POWER, OIL & GAS
The FM hinted about the Central Government’s intention to provide a push for solarization of farms. The FM has proposed support to the farmers for setting up solar powered hand pumps and grid connected solar plants on barren lands owned by farmers. The Central Government hopes that the sale of power generated from the farmers’ solar power plants through the grid would provide promising income to the farmers.
Acknowledging India’s best effort commitments to the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, the FM has recommended that the concerned power utilities close old thermal power plants having high carbon emissions than permitted.
The FM also urged the State Governments and Union Territories to adopt smart metering systems instead of the conventional ones which would not only help in checking payment defaults (due to prepaid metering) but will also provide the customer with the ability to choose the power supplier. This is a welcome move, but many more reforms are required to aid ailing DISCOMs.
In the passing, the FM also spoke about deliberations by the Government on honouring of the terms of its contracts. It may be inferred that this, in part, has to do with the recent arm twisting of power developers by state DISCOMs/State Governments by renegotiating the power tariffs and the terms and conditions of the renewable power purchase agreements.
The FM proposed an allocation of INR 220 billion for the power and renewable energy sector. The FM has proposed to extend the new concessional corporate tax rate of 15% to new domestic companies engaged in the generation of electricity in order to incentivize investment in the power sector.
With respect to the oil and gas sector, the FM announced that reforms will be undertaken to make natural gas price discovery more transparent and facilitate ease of transactions. Additionally, the FM also announced that the existing national gas grid will be expanded from 16,200 km to 27,000 km.
While the FM acknowledged the never-ending stress over DISCOMs, nothing was proposed on how the Central Government would address the present situation. In her previous budget speech in July 2019, the FM mentioned that the performance of the efforts to address the DISCOM stress including the success of Central Government’s UDAY Scheme is being evaluated. However, the FM did not discuss the same in this speech. It may be advisable for the Central Government to focus on the more critical concerns that have been looming over the power sector such as, fuel supply issues, easing the renewable purchase obligations, cross – subsidy surcharge, pilferage and transmission losses, transmission capacity augmentation and open access availability, payment defaults by DISCOMs and compliance of their obligations under the power purchase agreements (such as providing payment securities to the developer/power supplier), the long pending amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003 and the captive power rules, anti-dumping, building indigenous capabilities for renewal equipment and technologies etc.
The FM announced that accelerated development of highways would be undertaken, including development of 2,500 km access control highways, 9,000 km of economic corridors, 2,000 km of coastal and land port roads and 2,000 km of strategic highways. The Delhi-Mumbai Expressway and two other packages are targeted to be completed by 2023 and work on the Chennai-Bengaluru Expressway would also be started.
The FM also stated that the FASTag (Electronic Toll collection) mechanism encourages towards greater commercialization of highways enabling the NHAI to raise more resources. It was proposed to monetize at least 12 lots of highway bundles of over 6,000 km before 2024.
While monetization of 12 lots of highway bundles is a welcome move, it would be important to see whether timely monetization is achieved in a manner that enables NHAI to decrease its debt burden. Given the tepid response received for the previous TOT bundles, it would be crucial to ascertain whether the Central Government proposes another model for the monetization or amends the TOT model as envisaged by the Cabinet in November 2019. The geographies of the identified bundles would be key.
The FM envisions the setting up of “Kisan Rail” through PPP arrangements, with a view to attaining a seamless national cold supply chain for perishables, inclusive of milk, meat and fish. Equipping express and freight trains with refrigerated coaches is also identified under the theme “Aspirational India’ in the Union Budget.
As regards railways, the Central Government’s focus has been on fostering economic development through optimization of costs and ensuring greater connectivity through the following:
- Increase in the number of Tejas type trains.
- High speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
- Setting-up a large solar power capacity alongside the rail tracks on the land owned by the railways.
- Re-development projects for 4 stations and operation of 150 passenger trains would be done through PPP mode.
Grant of financial assistance for the 148 km long Bengaluru Suburban transport project;
The Union Budget reinforces the importance of raising resources through PPP for network strengthening, connectivity, and modernization of Indian Railways. Considering the announcement by the FM that bidding for various PPP projects is underway, effective steps are being taken to make the sector on railways amenable to private investment. Insofar as the setting up of large solar power capacity alongside the rail tracks on the land owned by the railways has been envisioned, it remains unclear whether land owned by private players will be excluded for the purpose, in a scenario where the stretch of land alongside the rail tracks owned by the Indian Railways is not contiguous.
Noting the rapid growth in air traffic in the country, the FM announced that 100 more airports would be developed by 2024 to support the Regional Connectivity Scheme i.e. UDAN. It was also proposed that the air fleet number is expected to double from the present number of 600 by 2024.
The development of new airports would ease the strain on the existing airports. However, it would be important to see whether such development is done through the PPP mode or otherwise. Furthermore, given the news reports from January 2020 suggesting that the Central Government may introduce a cap on the number of projects a bidder can get, it would be interesting to see whether such move leads to wider participation by private parties in the sector and more realistic bids.
PORTS & WATERWAYS
To increase the efficiency of seaports, the FM proposed to implement a governance framework in line with global benchmarks. Further, it has also been proposed to corporatize at least 1 major port and subsequently list it on the stock exchanges.
As regards inland waterways, the FM announced that the Jal Vikas Marg on the 1,620 km Haldia-Allahabad stretch of river Ganga would be completed. Further, the 890 km Dhubri-Sadiya connectivity was proposed to be done by 2022. The FM announced that in consonance with Arth Ganga, plans are being prepared to energize economic activity along riverbanks.
Corporatization of ports would go a large way in improving operational efficiencies which has been a challenge with India’s major ports. It would be interesting to see the way this would be achieved and to also evaluate the global benchmarks that are introduced by the Central Government.
The FM announced that a National Logistics Policy would be released clarifying the roles of the Central Government, the State Governments and other regulators. A single window e-logistics market is also envisaged under the policy.
Given that a National Logistics Policy has been in the works for a while now, it would be important to ensure that the aforesaid announcement of the FM is implemented timely and efficiently. Considering that logistics involve inter-state movement, it would be crucial for the policy to harmonize the roles of the Central Government and the various State Governments, whilst at the same time bringing down the cost of logistics and making the Indian logistics sector globally competitive.
Performance of Eight Core Infrastructure Industries
The core infrastructure industries include coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity.
- In FY20, the cumulative growth of the core industries stood at 6%.
- In FY20, growth in the index was led by steel (4.2%) and fertilisers (2.7%).
Growth in Infrastructure Related Activities
National highway construction recorded the highest increase of 15% in line with government’s increased focus on improving logistics.
- In March 2020, NHAI accomplished the highest ever highway construction of 3,979 km of national highways in FY20.
- Freight earnings in FY20 stood at 113,480.65 crore (US$ 16.10 billion), while its gross revenue stood at INR. 174,660.52 crore (US$24.99 billion) during the same period.
- Cargo traffic handled stood at 4 million tonnes (MT) in FY20.
- Electricity production in India reached 1,252.61 BU in FY20.
Strong Momentum in Expansion of Roadways
Highway construction in India increased at a CAGR of 44 between FY16 – FY19. In FY19, 10,855 km of highways were constructed. The Government of India aims to construct 65,000 km of national highways at a cost of INR. 5.35 lakh crore (US$ 741.51 billion) by 2022.
- In April 2020, the Government set a target of constructing roads worth 15 lakh crores(US$ 212.80 billion) in the next two years.
- In May 2020, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) achieved major milestone by digging up a 440-metre-long tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94).
Strong Revenue Growth for Indian Railways
Revenue growth has been strong over the years. Indian Railways’ revenue increased at a CAGR of 57% during FY16-FY19 and reached US$27.71 billion in FY19. The gross revenue stood at INR. 174,660.52 crore (US$24.99 billion) in FY20.
- The Indian Railways received allocation under Union Budget 2020-21 at 72,216 crore(US$ 10.33 billion).
- Indian Railways will require investment of 35.3 trillion (US$ 545.26 billion) by 2032 for capacity addition and modernisation. The capital expenditure in the sector is expected to increase by 92% annually
- In FY20, total thermal installed capacity in the country stood at 81 GW, while renewable, hydro and nuclear energy installed capacity totalled86.76 GW, 45.70 GW and 6.78 GW, respectively.
- With electricity production of 1,252.61 BU in FY20, the country witnessed growth of around 26% over the previous fiscal year.
- Indian energy sector is expected to offer investment opportunities worth US$300 billion over the next 10 years.
Self – Sustained Economic growth through Secured Governance.
“Secured Governance offers a strategy for the government to get all the basic infrastructure development with a negligible investment by the Government. It is a concept of developing Techno Economic Corridors connecting HUBs which will act as growth centre for individual sectors. The very concept of “Secured’’ here implies a secured convergence or knitting with various sectors defining a growth for an economy.”
Secured Governance – A Holistic Approach to Infrastructure Development
Secured Governance is a concept that is catching the attention of many as a holistic approach to infrastructure needs, promising a great deal. It professes taking advantage of valuation of assets created and delivering at negligible cost to the government. It aims at balanced growth in all sectors in need of better facilities, in a more holistic manner, rather than focusing only on say expressways, or power or any one of numerous other sectors. While addressing any one of them, the others also get due attention ensuring all round development. It promises more societal participation and benefit sharing with transparency. Underlying this is a strategy of developing techno-economic corridors connecting urban areas across the country.
Secured Governance advocates a pragmatic approach of taking Advantage of Valuation of Assets Created
This is not new. We all know when development takes place there is valuation in property. Who benefits from this? Often it is incidental and taken advantage off by land and property sharks. Imagine a model where this valuation can be ploughed back into the project and benefit the people around. First the cost of the project is reduced and can actually be at negligible cost to the government if carefully planned. Next the population sees it as benefitting them and so they participate more enthusiastically, helping with early completion of the project rather than being an impediment.
Public Private Participation (PPP)
The method of execution envisaged is essentially of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) model, where concessionaires bid for a project, with the incentive being concurrent areas offered to them for development and commercial use. These will give returns in four to five years which will meet their investment cost. It is better than waiting for 20 years collecting toll to make good the loans taken for a project. While the concessionaire utilizes valuation in a pattern that is part of a larger plan for the area, he also shares this with more and adds more value to the whole system. It will be a win-win situation. The SG approach requires the Government to participate as a facilitator and nothing more. The first step is to recognize the merits of a multi-sector approach to infrastructure and conceive projects which may be predominantly one sector but carry with them smaller packages of other sectors. Implied in this is the ability to take decision across ministries and give clearances at one point. The method of implementation will also be peculiar to each project, the place and the local conditions. Single window clearances would therefore have to be the norm, supported by empowered teams that can help conceptualize and clear a project in the SG mould. Once this is done, the execution may be decentralized to specific states or regions. Help from the government will only be required for mid-course corrections where inescapable. The requirement is to move from small to big, from project to project. Each will be unique depending on what the ground and the situation dictates. The method of both valuation and value addition needs expertise and imagination for holistic development in the state through Secured Governance.
PPPs are essentially “risk sharing partnerships” between governments and the private sector on financing, designing, constructing, and operating public infrastructure and public services. Infrastructure projects are inherently complex and unpredictable, and, under PPP arrangements, governments opt to transfer specific tasks and the risks associated with them to private enterprises that might be better able to execute and mitigate them.
It is to be noted that India cannot and will not go slow on its explosively expanding plans despite the dent caused by Covid. The steps taken for massive expansion will be taken forward strategically to achieve the desired results which may be a little later than planned. Investment in infrastructure is necessary for the economy, as power shortages, inadequate transport and poor connectivity affect overall growth performance and progress. Infrastructure Growth, huge investment toward a greater formalisation of the economy is bound to lead to acceleration in per capita income of the people and large-scale employment. Government clearly holds the key to realising this potential and taking a proactive stance.
Use modern technologies to provide both immediate assessment and the longer-term ability to continually evaluate the fine balance between lean operations and risk mitigation. Using analytics, AI, and visualization tools, it is possible to model and then build flexibility and optionality into sustainable infrastructure development. The International investment community is more keen than before to support and the overseas Indian are playing a catalytic role to support and there would be accelerated growth to compensate the slowdown as it is need and not choice for India and the countries supporting it for their own growth and survival in these challenging times.
Dr P. Sekhar,
Chairman, Unleashing India,
Global Smart City Panel,