Mumbai: India needs to look at infrastructure development holistically to enjoy sustainable development, executives and analysts said on Monday at the India Economic Summit of the World Economic Forum in Mumbai.
Only countries that have simultaneously developed various forms of infrastructure, including education, health, information technology, transport, drinking water and sanitation, among others, have been successful, said Ravi Sharma, chief executive of Adani Power Ltd.
Half of India’s children are malnourished and two million die within a year of their birth, Sharma said. Two-thirds of the population does not have access to sanitation. The country has 800 million mobile phone connections, but only 100 million Internet connections.Coal reserves in the country total 500 billion tonnes, but only 1% is mined, he said to illustrate the skewed nature of India’s infrastructure development.
Sharma said the country loses efficiency worth $45 billion because of infrastructural bottlenecks. The sum, he said, is likely to expand three times in 10 years.
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Ankur Bhatia, executive director of Bird Group, a technology provider to the travel and aviation industry, stressed the need for cooperation among various stakeholders. “Collaboration is critical for future growth,” Bhatia said, adding that parallel initiatives in different sectors of infrastructure are leading to wastage of national resources.
Consistency in policy is crucial to ensure that initiatives in various sectors bring the desired results, said Rajiv Lall, managing director and chief executive, Infrastructure Development and Finance Co. Ltd
“No sector in this country has a long-term policy,” he said, adding that inconsistent policies hobble business growth.
Infrastructure projects benefit even those who are at the bottom of the pyramid, said Sudesh Menon, managing director of Waterlife India Pvt. Ltd. He cited the example of Bihar, where recent investment in infrastructure development by the government created jobs and brought down labour migration to states such as Maharashtra and Delhi.
James Stewart, chairman, global infrastructure, KPMG UK, said there is a growing need to create new urban centres as more people leave villages to move to cities.
Lall agreed, saying the challenge of urbanization was not appreciated enough in the country.