MUMBAI Nov 13 Government paralysis,
bureaucratic stonewalling of projects and corruption.
Indian infrastructure firms on Sunday vented their
frustration during a World Economic Forum event in Mumbai at
what they saw as needless brakes on growth in a sector key to
the country's prosperity.
Asia's third-largest economy plans spending $1 trillion over
the next five years to expand its clogged roads, tackle huge
power shortages and overhaul its creaking railways.
Lacking the financial muscle that China has to bring its
infrastructure up to speed, the Indian government has turned to
the private sector to fund half of that target.
"The government has, by necessity, given lots of space to
the private sector," said Rajiv Lall, chief executive officer of
Infrastructure and Development Finance Co.
"But having unleashed this genie, it has struggled to keep
pace with it ... enthusiasm and skills of private developers far
outpace the government's ability to provide support."
However, India's ambitions have been crimped by corruption
scandals that have sparked huge protests against Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh's government and slowed decision-making on big
Ajit Gulabchand, the chairman and managing director of
Hindustan Construction Co Ltd, said there is a "huge
slowdown" in infrastructure-building in India.
"There are many reasons for it: the scams have created a
lull in decision-making, people are afraid to take decisions,"
he told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the event.
"India has hurt itself by stalling projects," he added.
Infrastructure developers complain that the government has
not kept its side of its bargain by failing to create a policy
framework to allow the sector to grow.
"There is no sector where the policies are consistent, where
policies are long term, where policies are really thought out,"
said Ravi Sharma, chief executive officer of Adani Power
, a unit of one of India's largest private sector
"And therefore most of the time, when the sector starts
doing well, suddenly it trips," he said.
This matters. Losses from poor infrastructure shave an
estimated 2 percent off India's GDP and add to pressure on
inflation that remains above 9 percent.
"If goods are transported from Gurgaon to the Mumbai port,
they pass through 36 checkposts and can take up to 10 days,"
said Rudolf Hug, chairman of Switzerland's Panalpina
Welttransport Holding, a freight mover.
The distance between those two cities is about 1,400
kilometres (870 miles).
The pace of construction in almost every sector, from power
to highways to ports, has slipped behind New Delhi's targets. A
top government official has said India is likely to miss its
$500 billion infrastructure-building target for the five years
ending in March 2012 by 10-12 percent.
"There is a policy pause," said Subbarao Amarthaluru, the
chief financial officer of GMR Infrastructure Ltd,
whose projects include an expansion of New Delhi's airport.
"Things will slow down," he added.
The slow pace of change in India has prompted firms to scout
for construction opportunities overseas, including Africa,
Harpinder Singh Narula, chairman of DS Construction, said on
Firms struggle to acquire land for projects, while obtaining
clearances from the environment ministry and other regulators
can take years. Bureaucracy and corruption mean the pace of
contracts being awarded remains slow, firms complain.
HCC's Lavasa project is a textbook case. A $31 billion
township in the hills of the western state of Maharashtra,
Lavasa was stalled for 12 months due to wrangling between the
state and central government over environmental clearance,
costing the firm $400,000 a day.
The project won conditional clearance on Wednesday to resume
The lack of clarity surrounding Lavasa's approval, and
similar tussles over other projects such as South Korean steel
major POSCO's plant in eastern India, have spooked
investors and harmed foreign interest.
"It is imperative that we quickly turn the atmosphere around
by bringing some speed into the decision-making and keep some
old promises of reforms and quickly pass them so that we get the
feeling India is going places back again," said Gulabchand,
whose group has a turnover of $1.6 billion.
For more Reuters coverage of the World Economic Forum India
Economic Summit, click:
(Additional reporting by Prashant Mehra; Editing by Tony