Saturday, September 3, 2016

Another view on the Mylapore streetscape lecture - Opportunity vs Need

Most Infrastructure Projects are synthesized from public pain points. For example a flyover is built when decongestion becomes the need of the hour. New pipes are laid when there is shortage of water and so on. These projects would be championed by the public themselves as it has a direct effect and the media glorifies such initiatives. Netas consider these as feathers on their caps and leverage them as credentials.
Historically, Indian streets never had the concept of an organized street scape (more so in Mylapore which by itself is a historical place). You would find everything on Indian streets, ranging from flea markets, street food, hawkers, beggars to transformers (Kavitha pointed this out) and even garbage. And we have been happily living in this mess. In a broad sense, a better streetscape was never a burning issue for a developing country like ours and we had bigger problems to worry about, like shortage of everything (except people).
Kavitha's project intended to fundamentally change the idea of how the society looks at a walkway. She felt that the neighborhood deserved more - Much appreciated. However, this was opportunity based (not need based).
Now, lets consider Kavitha's mention of the "Car free Sundays" at Besant Nagar, which is a metropolitan locality (in contrast with the orthodox Mylapore). Perhaps Besant Nagar, with broad minded people, would possibly have accepted an opportunity based project.
Prof. Ashwin mentioned that this a stakeholder management issue and it clearly seems to be one. The thin line of difference between opportunity and need impacts the support received from parties involved. And this can make or break projects.

Other views are welcome....

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is Amaravati a Utopian Dream??

The relatively new born state of Andhra Pradesh had the foundation laid for its new capital city of Amaravati on 22nd of this month. The proposed capital region is spread about an area of 7,420 sq. km and the capital city of 217 It is the brain child of its Chief Minister N. Chandra Babu Naidu, as he faces one of his biggest challenge to construct the city. The master plan for the city was developed by urban planning consultants Surbana International Consultants Pte. Ltd based out of Singapore. They proposed an ambitious Seed Capital Area (SCA) Master Plan for the capital city. Some of the key highlights of the plan are as under-
1)   The SCA will house close to 3 lakh residents. Being a vibrant business hub, close to 7 lakh jobs are expected to be created
2)   The plan also proposes to construct an integrated network of Metro railway (12 km), Bus Rapid Transit (15 km), downtown roads (7 km), arterial and sub-arterial roads (about 26 km) and collector roads (about 53 km).
3)   The plan is to construct a city with world class aesthetic appeal but adhering to the sustainable green principles with extensive open green spaces
4)   Special emphasis has been laid on the ‘pedestrianisation’- with development of 25 kms of walkways linked to open green spaces to promote a ‘walk to work environment’
5)   A dedicated freight corridor and establishment of 7 industrial zones have also been proposed. A total of 938 kms of roads have been proposed
While every resident of the state including me will be excited to see a ‘‘Singapore’’ level at Amravati and so does its Chief Minister, he and his team have their task cut out. In this blog I want to discuss about the challenge the state faces in raising capital.
Funding- Any project in this capacity requires a large amount of capital especially since a new city is to be constructed. One option for the CM and his team is to go in for a PPP model. But again PPP projects on such a large scale have not been constructed in India. Moreover the roadblocks faced by the present HMRL project (PPP) in the neighboring state has not gone down too well for the private sector. Also given that the project is slated for completion in the year 2050, its too long a call for any private company.
The Centre has promised a sum of Rs. 60,000 crores as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. In addition to paying the farmers for the compensation of their land, a huge deficit still exists. So how does the CM look to raise money for his ‘dream’ Project in addition to the state allocated budget and institutional borrowing? Some of the options he could avail are-
·         He can look into the option of Corporation investment from big companies along the industrial corridor in and around Amaravati (Vijayawada and Guntur). Companies can be encouraged to develop infrastructure in select pockets near their establishments by providing incentives such as free land, water and electricity.
·         Already a lot of investment is coming from Telugu Association of North America (TANA), the largest association of Telugu people living outside India. They are raising funds through campaigns like ‘My Brick-My Amaravati’ wherein donations are being accepted for buying bricks (at Rs 10 a brick)
·         The Chief Minister has already embarked on a journey to bring in investment from IT companies, like he did when he was the Chief Minister of the then Andhra Pradesh. 

So a lot depends on the Chief Minster himself and he needs to sail through the next election to come to power for another term in order to see his dream city take shape




Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bujagali Hydropower Project: A social challenge

Bujagali hydro power plant was much needed project as per the government which might not be the case as that fund could be used for other development programs which can show up result earlier than a power plant since Uganda is poor country. But let us assume that the project was needed to be done. now there were many flaws:
  • No feasibility and project study was done by the government or authorities even though this is considered as the most important step in any project.
  •  Government just decided that we need to do the project and privately selected the company for the same, no transparency and competitive bid was involved which could have ended in much more reasonable prices 
  • World bank known for its support for the socially relevant project played an important role and decided to finance the project with the help of different agencies, but WB itself did not do any studies or any member was involved in any of the committee which did the studies which made WB rely on the report which will be sent by the third party. That created problem when NGOs started protesting and WB did not had its own reprt so it got confused who is right here. 
  • Here the biggest challenge was the social impact which was linked with economics of the country also. I realized here that the physically resettlement is not always the option as there are cultural and emotional or economical factors are also involved which are attached with the place where they live.
  • Since the EIA was done when project was allotted and was done by the AES. There is high probability that it will show it as good project to get the finance. This was 2500 pages report which is hard to read also.
  • A comprehensive study of the project with member from the WB, government and company would result in a good DPR which will help project to go along.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Way ahead for sustainable financing in Indian Infrastructure

Sustainability is a mix of Social sustainability, Economic Sustainability and Environmental Sustainability

Social Sustainability is achieved by providing infrastructure services to the socially deprived sections. Viability Gap funding (VGF) which enables funding for projects which would not be economically feasible is a way ahead to achieve social sustainability. VGF is funded through money earned by Government from commercially viable projects through Negative funding. In Germany, a certain percentage of work in a project should be handled by socially deprived sections of the population. This kind of work allocation in India will develop the socially weak sections of Indian society.

Economic Sustainability is possible by New Public Management (NPM) principle of PPP where the private parties are encouraged to finance Infrastructure relieving the Government of fiscal deficit. An alternative funding source, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is subject to political and financial risks and FDI players are averse to invest in India. In such cases, developing the domestic finance market is the way to sustainable financing. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) incentives and Infrastructure Investment Trust (INVIT) proposed in budget 2014 are welcome moves towards achieving sustainable funding in India.

Environmental sustainability can be achieved when banks adopt Equator Principles. A move in this direction was initiated by Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC) in 2013 when it adopted the equator principle. IDFC is India’s leading finance player and the first to adopt Equator Principles. However, sustainable funding can be ensured only when all banks adopt them. Also, there should be banks which exclusively finance sustainable projects to speed up sustainable constructions in India. UK’s Green Investment Bank (GIB) lend to investors who work on renewable energy projects. Another way to go ahead is tie up with foreign institutions to learn from them. In 2014, India and German KfW Development bank signed loan agreements for sustainable development of Tamil Nadu towns.

1.    "IDFC" Sustainable Infrastructure Development and Environment Management. Web. 7 Nov. 2014. <>.
2.    The Greening of Infrastructure Finance, Insight magazine, Issue No. 2, Spring 2012
3.    German Embassy, New Delhi, 2014, “Germany India sign agreement for sustainable infrastructure development” <>

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meeting the $1 trillion investment in infrastructure

                           AIIB which stands for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was launched last month on 24th october 2014. I think that this bank along with the BRICS bank would pose a major challenge to the Bretton woods twins the IMF and the world bank and it has possibility of boosting the growth rate in infrastructure in India.

World Bank:US dominated bank

  • United States is discouraging the World Bank from lending to coal-based power projects in the asia.

IMF:Europe led bank

ADB(Asian development bank):Japan dominated bank

BRICS new development bank: 

  • At least 25 per cent of our power generation capacity over the next decade is based on Chinese equipment import. This means roughly $30 billion (about Rs 180,000 crore) of power equipment could be imported from China. 
  • The BRICS bank could also offer cheaper loans for such power projects in BRICS countries.

  • Asian development bank lends not more than $10 billion a year while asia needs $800 billion of investment in infrastructure annually between now and 2020
Why this BRICS and AIIB are good for India?
  • 12th Five year plan says we need $1 trillion dollar investment in infrastructure. Few billions dollars we get as ‘soft loan’ from AIIB, BRICS  bank  is help in achieving this plan.
  • India is 2nd largest stakeholder in AIIB, so it has large voting power and help India in getting loans according to its interest
  • Cheaper loans


Monday, October 27, 2014

Accountability issues in PPP

We have been seeing of late in New Public Management (NPM) about the changes required in Government’s role. A number of stages are required to get an approval for a project. Government tends to keep the process intact rather than the end result. All this is done to keep the government machinery accountable.

Accountable to.. (Willems & Dooren, 2011)
  1. Political mechanisms – future elections, political debate, questions of opposition
  2. Judicial review – questioning by the courts
  3. Superior authority – chain of hierarchical command, government auditors, regulatory bodies, ombudsman
  4. Groups – Citizens, Interest groups (NGO’s)

In India, the ‘5 C’s and 1 M’ which question government decisions are CBI, CVC, CAG, CJI and CIC. The M is of course Media (

Now, the account holders (people, judiciary, authority) concentrate on the process and not the performance of accounting. It has become easier to hold someone accountable for a 'failure in finance and fairness' rather than on a 'failure in performance'.
What is required now is a change looking at efficiency and value for money.
Few solutions in this regard as mentioned in (Forrer, 2010) are
  1. Cost- benefit analysis -  to show (people, judiciary and authority) that the project is done because of the benefits
  2. Get social and political support – by increasing transparency and involving people in decision making
  3. Performance measurement – based on implementation and benefit to people

  2. Willems, T., & Van Dooren, W. (2011). Lost in diffusion? How collaborative arrangements lead to an accountability paradox. International Review of Administrative Sciences77(3), 505-530. 
  3. Forrer, J., Kee, J. E., Newcomer, K. E., & Boyer, E. (2010). Public–private partnerships and the public accountability question. Public Administration Review70(3), 475-484. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Water Redistribution - Learnings from China

Many of us would be quite aware of the 'Indian Rivers Inter-Link' [1] project which was proposed in 2005. This is a very large scale project that intends to interlink Indian rivers by a network of canals so as to reduce floods in certain zones of the nation while alleviating the water shortage problem in others. It seems like quite a reasonable thing to do and the government has been in the process of surveying the zones and estimating costs and benefits since 9 years now. There are environmental and relocation issues that the officials have foreseen and will look to address if the project goes ahead, which, judging by its current state seems to be the case. But these are predictions and all international comparisons that have been done so far are with similar projects in the West, where social and economic situations are very different from those in India. 

But now, an opportunity for comparison with a similar project in a nation whose conditions are very similar to those of India has presented itself. China has finished constructing a canal more than 1200 km in length from Danjiangkou Dam in the central province of Hubei to the capital, Beijing [2]. The issues they faced were similar, heavy concentration of industries and agricultural lands near the economy-driving capital area had depleted and polluted the water naturally available in the region and so the only solution they could conjure up was to 'borrow' from the water abundant South. And just like India's Inter-Link project, this seemed like a prudent thing to do and so, being China, they quickly did it.

The Economist [3], however, has a very interesting take on the project and points out secondary and tertiary impacts that make the project seem far less prudent. They say that while the canal will solve the current problem and meet a significant proportion of the demand, this portion will quickly shrink over time with an accelerated increase in population, number of industries and farmlands, spurred by the canal. Additionally, the article mentions "By lubricating further water-intensive growth the current project may even end up exacerbating water stress in the north". And this argument seems largely valid. When there is abundant supply of a commodity, its value decreases and people tend to use more of it, rather carelessly. Moreover, shifting billions of cubic metres of water may stimulate the spread of diseases which is something that even might not have been considered during the planning process. 

They point out the real issue: the high demand for water and inefficient use of it. And this problems only gets exacerbated by the 'solution'. Agreed, that some amount of redistribution will have to happen to address the problem in areas that face acute shortage. But a more enduring solution would be controlled tapping of sustainable local resources and promotion of efficient utilisation techniques. Also, the government shouldn't hesitate in charging high tariffs from the industrial users of the redistributed water. This case also highlights a very interesting aspect of project conception/appraisal: sometimes projects are not the solution and therefore, unneeded and the appraisers should feel comfortable accepting that.