Infrastructure Today has completed yet another milestone with over 14 years of coverage on a sector which can make or break the India development story. While the UPA second term was mired in controversies and inaction, the sector ground to a rumbling halt and took down several large companies and projects under its weight. Several firms are under insolvency code and many others have been running a fire sale. All said and done, the NHAI ran the world's largest PPP programme and, a lot of the road network under the Golden Quadrilateral, and the NSEW corridor was financed by the private sector. Airports, metro rail, ports followed the suit and we have some successful models and some models which evolved by necessity.
The NDA government has completed over 30 months in power and has tried to create an atmosphere for interest in infrastructure to revive. Some notable steps include: insolvency & bankruptcy code, HAM model for road sector, ease in takeover of infrastructure projects, rehaul of the environment ministry, reduction in number of permits, RERA act, changes in procedure for releasing funds in case of disputes, UDAAN for regional air connectivity, smart cities mission, recapitalisation of public sector banks, to name a few.
Recently, legal issues too have been addressed. These include the proposed amendments to the Specific Relief Act, 1963, (SRA) where there has been a provision to ensure injunctions are not granted for infrastructure projects that could delay their execution, special courts are set up for such cases, suits are expeditiously disposed of within a specific time frame and substitution is allowed in performance of contracts. It limits the time for disposal of a suit to 12 months 'from the date of service of summons to the defendant' and says that any extension to this can be only for a maximum period of six months 'after recording reasons in writing for such extension'. Another very significant amendment relates to the 'substituted performance of a contract' under which if a contract is broken, the party who suffers would be entitled to get the contract performed by a third party, or by his own agency, and to recover expenses and costs, including compensation from the party who failed to perform his part of the contract. A new Section 20A has been introduced relating specifically to infrastructure projects.
During the year Infrastructure Today covered the HAM contracts when they were introduced in March 2017. It then decoded the smart cities opportunities in its May-June issue. In July-August, it zeroed into emphasising the importance of Big Data in infrastructure. With over Rs 11 lakh crore debt, project investments worth Rs 32.7 lakh crore and cost overrun of Rs 14.35 lakh crore at stake, the September-October issue dealt with the panacea offered by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016. The November - December issue then explored the plan for spending as laid out in the budget on infrastructure. The journey over the year has turned the mood from that of trepidation to one driven with a sense of hope.
Global pension funds like Canada Pension Plan have also begun investing in these infrastructure projects. UAE too has operationalised a US$ 75 billion sovereign fund for India of which US$ 1 billion has already been transferred.
The ground has been laid well with several initiatives which can propel this sector in the coming years. Mega projects have been announced with metro projects taking the lead followed by Bharatmala, Sagarmala, and so on and with some finally getting awarded like the Mumbai Trans-harbour link awarded to L&T and Tata Projects. These are some of the firsts with many to come. The year 2018 surely promises to be exciting for this sector where powerful moves will be made.