Summit News

World Bank may invest in $11 billion India fund

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The World Bank is exploring whether to invest in an $11 billion debt fund the Indian government will roll out by next year as part of a massive push to its infrastructure sector, the bank’s India head said.

Roberto Zagha said India was making progress in tackling procedural hassles that have held back faster infrastructure growth but a major roadblock to more private investment was a shortage of bankable projects.

The World Bank was likely to lend around $15 billion to $20 billion to India’s infrastructure sector in the next five years. Typically the bank’s lending to the sector ranges between 40-60 percent of the total annual lending.

The government has announced the $11 billion debt fund as a part of a series of recent measures to overhaul India’s creaking infrastructure, which has long been seen as hobbling faster growth in Asia’s third-largest economy. A similar fund is also under consideration for the power sector.

“It is being explored,” Zagha said in an interview as part of the Reuters India Investment Summit, when asked whether the World Bank would contribute to the fund.

“Our role is not entirely clear, whether there is a need for finance from the bank, or whether there is a need for expertise from the bank,” he added.

Pending legislation to give farmers a better deal in land acquisition would be a big step toward balancing development with social justice and help ease the implementation of infrastructure projects, he said.

The Indian government plans to double spending on infrastructure to $1 trillion in its next five-year plan, which runs from 2012-17.

“That’s a statement of intent,” said Zagha, referring to the spending target. “There’s a sense of urgency in the government which I didn’t see before. That’s very encouraging.”

There was at least $50 billion to $60 billion untapped investor potential in water and sewage treatment projects alone, he said.

“I don’t think financing is an issue.” he said. “The greatest challenge is bankable projects. Investors will come, financing will be found if you find ways of making projects which are commercially attractive and bankable.”

The fiasco of New Delhi’s preparations to host the Commonwealth Games has proved an embarrassment to the government and raised worries in some quarters, including the rating agency Moody’s Analytics, that it could deter foreign investment.

“I don’t think it matters,” Zagha said, when asked whether the Games could hit investor sentiment. “But it does show the organizational issues that India has to deal with.”

Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan