New Delhi: It is commonly acknowledged that Infrastructure Development is the most pressing economic issue in India. The Finance Minister has said on more than one occasion that we are sacrificing close to 2% of our GDP on account of poor infrastructure.
Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Ventures & chairman, CII National Council on Infrastructure
Yet, as a nation, we have no regularly disseminated statistics that monitors performance in Infra development.This is in spite of the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission acknowledging that this vital statistic is called “GCFI – Gross Capital Formation in Infrastructure as a percentage of GDP”.
The 11th Plan also targets what GCFI should be. But the Government of India does not bother to disseminate GCFI on a regular basis as it does with figures relating to GDP, Inflation, Forex Reserves etc. etc. How can we monitor the progress of infra development without this statistic – and how can we ensure accountability? We all know the patient has high fever, but we are unable to find a thermometer !
Required: a Ministry for Infrastructure
The sovereign has to play the role of a ‘visionary entrepreneur’ in the infrastructure sector. Unlike the ‘product-market economy’, the sovereign cannot discharge its responsibilities by unleashing investor-friendly policies and sit back and govern. It has to be the ‘project creator’.
Is the Indian State discharging its role as ‘infrastructure project creator’ adequately? The answer, sadly is No.
The story at the rural, urban, municipal and state levels is a miserable lack of energy, talent and motivation to do anything substantial and meaningful. Honourable exceptions exist, like the Delhi Metro.
So who is to do this ?
Arguably, the concerned line ministries or the line departments at the state level. But as a nation, are we to wait for ever for many of these ‘Kumbhakarnas’ to wake up !
Or is a bold new initiative necessary like, say a Ministry of Infrastructure, that is mandated with the task of :
• Project pipe-line creation
• Inter-sectoral co-ordination
• Project implementation monitoring
• Investment statistics
• Anchorage of independent economic regulators
• PPP policies and a dedicated PPP projects cell
• Creative channelization of public, multilateral and private expenditure into infrastructure.
Incidentally, Japan has a single Ministry of Infrastructure. It is called the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. France has a Ministry for Infrastructure (covering Transport, Spatial Planning, Tourism and the Sea). Israel too has its Ministry of National Infrastructures. Many of these countries have merged various infrastructure-related ministries in to one.
Et tu India ?
Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Ventures Pvt. Ltd and chairman, CII National Council on Infrastructure