Kamal Nath, India’s transport minister, announced today that the road ministry is planning to award up to 10,000 kilometres of road concessions by the end of this year. He said the country has beefed up its road building programme and is looking to partner with other countries for investments in this sector.
“I had said we will be constructing 20 kilometres of road a day and we are heading towards that. But the first step is that projects are really being awarded to private players. By the end of this year, we will have close to 21,000 kilometres of work in progress which is a huge quantum leap from the past,” said Nath.
On the sidelines of signing a memorandum of understanding with Britain’s transport secretary, Philip Hammond, to cooperate in road transportation, Nath said that India is looking for the UK to provide support not just in the construction sector but also in areas such as traffic management and vehicle certification.
Earlier in February, the UK and India set up the British India Roads Group, which comprises investors from both countries and seeks to attract investments for roads projects in India. India has also been holding talks with other countries to attract investments for road projects that have been delayed due to lack of funding. Recently, Nath visited China, where he discussed cooperating in road construction with the government.
Nath told the press conference that India is looking at China for support in construction and investment.
“China is very keen to invest as concessionaires and to invest in construction. There are about eight Chinese construction companies that are currently bidding for road projects in India and the Chinese government is keen that we take this forward,” Nath informed.
Meanwhile, Nath also rejected the idea of using the country’s foreign exchange reserves for the $11 billion infrastructure debt fund that had been announced by the Planning Commission of India in June. He said that the country will not need to touch its foreign exchange reserves to fund the infrastructure sector because there are already a number of infrastructure funds being set up by various financial institutions in India to invest in areas such as power, ports, and roads, among others.
“We are seeing a mushrooming of funds, a number of infrastructure funds being raised by institutions and even by construction companies. So there is a mushrooming of funds in every infrastructure sub-sector and that is the whole idea. Once the money is raised, these funds will then help projects in various infrastructure sectors, including power or ports or roads, depending on how much they can absorb,” Nath said.