New Delhi: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday proposed to allocate 1.7 trillion to improve connectivity via road, rail, air and waterways.

“A total of 12 lots of highway bundles will be monetised by 2024," Sitharaman said in her budget speech.

The minister also proposed to set up 9,000 km economic corridor and 2,000 km coastal corridor and strategic highways. Delhi-Mumbai expressway that is currently in the works will be completed by 2023. The expressway is expected to drastically cut down travel time between the two cities.

To enhance air connectivity, Sitharaman proposed to build 100 more airports by 2024.

The government’s focus on infrastructure indicates its commitment to revive investment cycle and create jobs to spur growth at a time when the economy is in the middle of a deep downturn.

According to the latest estimates, the Indian economy will grow at 5% in the current fiscal ending March. The growth projected is lower than the 6.1% recorded in 2018-19. In the quarter ended September 2019, economic growth had hit a six-year-low of 4.5%.

In December, the government launched 102 trillion worth infrastructure projects, under national infrastructure pipeline (NIP), to develop social and economic infrastructure in the next five years.

“There are 6,500 projects across various sectors, including housing, water, clean energy, healthcare for all, education, airports, irrigation projects," Sitharaman said, adding that NIP envisions improving ease of living, kick-start construction work, and create jobs.

To improve connectivity via railways, Sitharaman said there will be more Tejas-like trains for tourist destinations. Besides, there will be immense focus on four station redevelopment programme that is expected to have private sector participation.

The government will also provide 20% equity for Bengaluru suburban transportation project, which is worth 18,600 crore. At least one major port would be listed on the stock exchanges, the finance minister said.

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