The 6th Annual India Roads Conference organised by ASAPP Media invited industry think tanks and sector people to deliberate, discuss and ponder over the issues plaguing the roads sector in the country. The conference focused on 'Accelerating India's Road to Growth'.
Pratap Padode, MD & Editor in Chief, ASAPP Media Information Group inaugurated the conference and shared his views on the need for having all clearances in place before the project is awarded, drastically reducing the debt stress situation. A CRISIL study indicated that of the 78 BOT projects cleared between 2000-13, more than 3/4th projects have faced delays, knocking up the project costs. He further mentioned that projects need to be sustainable and for them to be sustainable one needs to bear in mind that there are going to be economic cycles that need to be accounted for in the business plan. As a number of unfinished projects and stare at the sector, the list of projects that need to be awarded is also getting longer.
Announcements to the tune of renegotiations, premium rescheduling, financing etc have come, on which Asapp Media had also organised a roundtable conference a few months back. But the situation has watered down comparatively now and the industry has accepted the current scenario and the hard reality that the economic situation does warrant some special measures, which are gradually being introduced. The experts in the various sessions stressed on the need to figure out how the industry confidence can be restored and how the business can be brought back to the table, which could form the agenda for the new government.
Chief guest Anil Swarup, Additional Secretary, Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI) lauded the initiative taken by the conference and added, "It is heartening to note that while the majority of the people are talking politics, there are a few who are discussing economics," in his opening remarks. He shared on how based on the success of the Project Monitoring Group (PMG) headed by him that has managed to clear 5.1 lakh crore worth of infrastructure projects in less than a year, 14 states have approached the cabinet secretariat to set up state monitoring groups.
The conference tried to seek solutions to the revival of the sector and look out for solutions for the problems plaguing the road sector. The first session focused on the ways to implement and boost policy innovation and performance in the road sector and discuss, analyse and revise the terms and conditions of the current policy to help implement growth strategies in the road sector. Views were also shared about the programmatic approach of the PPP model in India. S C Mittal, Senior VP of ILFS Transportation shared on how the PPP segment has overcrowding happening leading to chaos.
The second session focused on how with the advent of new methodologies in road development sector, project management has become essential for the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute road infrastructure projects efficiently. Sudhir Hoshing, CEO Roads, Reliance Infrastructure suggested the need for an "output basedö project approach.
The conference also deliberated that absence of appropriate funding models have stalled or delayed as many as 103 Union government infrastructure projects costing around Rs 150 crore each. Industry suggestions for the upsurge in the investments in the road sector were discussed and financing means like Infrastructure Debt Funds (what our lead story also focuses on) that are gradually getting popular again, adding a lot of impetus to the funding in the roads sector. The final session of the day was a unique plenary session that detailed out opportunities arising from the cleared projects that will begin execution or open bids in 2014û15. Majority of the panelists supported the need for the appointment of a regulator that can give an independent view in issues of conflict.