Time to make things happen
The Eleventh Plan has already crossed its halfway mark and is nearing closure. Not many would disagree that this five-year period would represent one of the most dynamic periods in the country’s economic development – notwithstanding the recession. Perhaps, some would argue that the recession may have added to the timeframe’s dynamism. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this period has been the increased private investment in infrastructure.
Total investment in India’s infrastructure sector during the first two years of the XIth plan has risen to Rs3,03,807 crore in 2007-08 and Rs.3,59,192 crore in 2008-09 as against the earlier projected level of Rs2,70,273 crore and Rs3,21,579 crore respectively. The private sector’s share in this was 34.32% and 33.73% respectively – a few shades higher than the target of 30%. In terms of GDP, the XIth plan is likely to see an increase in infra investments by about 2.47 percentage points of GDP compared to the Xth plan. From the base year to the terminal year, this increase would be 2.66 percentage points of GDP. The Planning Commission attributes this rise to the higher private sector investment.
The private sector has shown that as and when the government has created favourable conditions for investments, it does not hold back its purse. The new estimated projection for the total investment in infrastructure in the XIth plan is Rs20,54,205 crore. The figure for the XIIth Plan is obviously higher at Rs40,99,240 crore. That’s almost double. We all – including the government machinery – know that these figures are beyond the government’s treasury if it were to invest alone. While nobody is denying the government’s intentions in opening up the sector further for the private sector, more efforts are needed and these are needed faster. For example, the PPP initiative needs to evolve to higher levels. Transparent processes, faster approvals and quicker implementations are vital to the nation’s growth. Equally critical is the need to focus on quality of projects and a strong unified vision rather than vested interests, half-baked plans and obsolete policies.
It’s time to make things work just like an ordinary wagon master did for the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson during a crucial battle during the American Civil War. When the march of his troops was halted by river, the General asked his engineers to build a bridge. The wagon master – in charge of the entire troops’ resources including the artillery – was told to coordinate with the engineers to ensure that everything crosses the river at the earliest. Just before the evening approached, the wagon master reported to the great General that the task has been accomplished. Ecstatic with the news, Jackson decided to congratulate his engineers and asked the wagon master about their whereabouts. The wagon master was surprised. He had devised his own way to take the wagon train across the river while the engineers were still in their tent discussing designs, plans and policies. With all due respect to the planners, India needs wagon masters.