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Infra concerns in India, US comparable: Pressler

Infra concerns in India, US comparable: Pressler

India infrastructure investment conference in New York emphasised India's high investment potential, the need for more liberalisation, and citizens' role in taking advantage of a democratic system to elect visionary leaders who can ensure continued investment opportunities.

Although government plans to pump $1 trillion investment this decade, the ways and means to deploy such huge amount are still not clear. To get a global perspective and a need for addressing impe­nding issues in the Indian infrastructure space, Aspire International, ASAPP Media's US based arm, and Infrastructure Today organised a conference at the Indian Consulate General in New York on 16 and 17 September. The conference drew attention towards infra­structure opportunities in India and demystified the pro­cesses of entering the Indian infrastructure market and witnessed the who's who in the infra-business circles from the US.

Senator Larry Pressler drew parallels between Indian and American infrastructure problems and gave reasons for rapid infrastructure development in China. He said, “The US needs to focus on fixing the existing loopholes in infrastructure. Many of the Interstate highways and bridges are in serious need of repair. There is a similarity between India and the US, in terms of hurdles that arise while building infrastructure. One may wonder how China can successfully build 25,000 miles of roads in 10 years. China has few policymakers and no concerns on the individual domain. In the US as well in India, the top democratic nations, we care a lot about land acq­uisition and environmental impacts. These are serious issues and cause delays in execution of infrastructure projects.”

Diane Farrell, Executive Vice President and Senior Director, US India Business Council (USIBC) pres­ented solutions to infrastructure financing. Growth in India will happen only if robust infrastructure is in place, Farrell said. “Economists have found out that there is a 2 percent reduction in growth due to inadequate infrastructure. India has the potential to witness nine-plus or even double digit growth rates, but its infra­stru­ct­ure sector needs huge money and there should be reliable sources to fund it. The most important source is the long term debt, for which corporate bond markets should be given a push. Regulatory limitations existing in the bond market should be minimised and this is imp­ortant from the point of view of attracting foreign invest­ments.”

“Recently the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has tied up with IIFCL and IDBI, and this is good news. IIFCL has a very good potential to fund mega infra­structure projects in India. Mutual funds also can provide a good funding avenue,” she added.

Pratap Padode, President & CEO, ASPIRE International Group Inc and Editor-in-Chief, Infrastructure Today, said, “This is the right time when the US should focus on investing in the Indian infra­structure domain than remaining a mere vendor of equip­ment and services.”

On the flip side, Indian investments in the US seem to be burgeoning and Indian financing companies may be finding the market worthy of investment. Madhur Vuppuluri, President and CEO, Essar Americas, said, “We plan to build a steel plant with an investment of $1.5 billion and create jobs for hundreds of Americans. However, not even a single dollar has been funded by the US banks. The entire debt component has been fun­ded by Indian banks.”

The day long conference on the 17th September had an impressive line-up of 14 speakers from India and the US. Apart from Pressler, Farrell, Vuppuluri and Padode, Gautam Bhandari of Morgan Stanley, Luis Miranda of IDFC Private Equity, Sanjay Joshi of Lanco Infratech, Harish Mathur of IL&FS Transportation, Dr Avinash Patwardhan of CH2M HILL, Abhishek Jain of Blackstone, and Dwaraknath Narsimhan of PwC spoke. The sessions addressed Roads, Power Policy and Taxation. An impres­sive delegate turnout on a Saturday validated the interest amongst US investors in Indian infrastructure.

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