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India is blessed with an over 7,500 km long coastline. From the time of the Indus-Saraswati River Valley Civilisation to the early medieval period, the country was renowned for its intrepid sailors. They sailed in their merchant or military vessels to far-off lands to either trade or establish mighty empires such as those of Khmer and Srivijaya in Southeast Asia.
After centuries of decline and indifference, attempts to revive the country's glory as a major maritime power has gained traction in recent years. According to the Ministry of Shipping data, master plans for 12 major ports are ready as well as 95 capacity expansion and port modernisation projects that have been identified since 2014 in a bid to enhance their capacity and efficiency. In September 2019, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) shared an action plan for the development of coastal shipping with the government. However, industry experts continue to remain concerned regarding the existing port infrastructure.
Our cover story looks at why a rapid and sustained infrastructure development is required to unlock the monetisation potential of our port assets. This time technology is playing a part, too, as the government unveils a National Logistics Portal at the Revolutionising Ports Conference organised by the Indian Ports Association and FIRST Construction Council in Mumbai.
Next month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present her second budget in eight months in Parliament. Amid the pressure of global headwinds, fall in GDP growth and rising automation across industries, the first full-time woman finance minister of the world's largest democracy is under tremendous pressure to spur growth and create jobs. As a result, 2019 witnessed action in terms of a series of economic boosters and the launch of the Rs 102 trillion National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) on the last day of the year. We speak to some of the biggest names in India Inc. to get a feel of their expectations for our pre-Union Budget 2020-21 story. In his interview with the magazine, Vinayak Chatterjee, Chairman, Feedback Infra, calls for the setting up of a development financial institution (DFI) with the capacity to invest in infrastructure projects on a long-term basis. A passionate advocate of public-private partnership (PPP) projects, Chatterjee insists on their revival on a war footing.
Meanwhile, our story on steel examines how with the increase in public spending on infrastructure projects and a recovery in the automobile sector, a revival in steel demand is very much in the offing. The proposed white paper by the government on reducing the tax burden on this critical sector would go a long way in creating a strong foundation for the right dialogue on the topic.
In this issue, we also delve into the issue of cross-border electricity trade (CBET) in South Asia. As per the estimates shared by organisations working in the area, given the huge opportunity available in the region, the CBET rollout is likely to not only lower the cost of electricity but also ensure all-round socio-economic development. In his interaction, Pankaj Batra, Project Director, SARI/EI/IRADe and former Chairperson, Central Electricity Authority (CEA), says that one of the world's largest electricity grids thus created would go a long way in helping India in managing the intermittency of its renewable energy sources.