Our country needs massive investment in access of Rs 50 lakh crore in infrastructure to increase growth of GDP and integrate the nation with a network of roads, airports, railways, inland water and to provide good quality services to the people: FM
Describing infrastructure as a growth driver of the economy, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday increased the budgetary allocation for the sector by Rs 1 lakh crore to Rs 5.97 lakh crore for the 2018-19 fiscal and said the country needs Rs 50 lakh crore for infra spending.
The minister in his budget speech said India will need massive investments in roads, air, rail and inland waterways while hinting that the money would be raised through equity from the market.
“Infrastructure is the growth driver of the economy. Our country needs massive investment in access of Rs 50 lakh crore in infrastructure to increase growth of GDP and integrate the nation with a network of roads, airports, railways, inland water and to provide good quality services to the people," the finance minister said.
Tabling the Narendra Modi government's last full Budget ahead of 2019 general elections, Jaitley said the priority accorded to the sector was evident from the fact that the prime minister is personally monitoring infrastructure project targets and achievements.
"The prime minister personally reviews the target and achievements in infrastructure sector on a regular basis.
Using online monitoring system of Pragati alone, projects worth Rs 9.46 lakh crore have been facilitated and fast-tracked."
The FM said in order to create employment and aid growth, the government has increased budgetary and extra budgetary expenditure on infrastructure for 2018-19 to Rs 5.97 lakh crore from Rs 4.94 lakh crore in 2017-18.
Terming the budget as "pro-poor, pro-people" and an excellent budget for the benefit of masses, Road Transport, Highways, Shipping, Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari said: "Infrastructure got priority like always. The budget for highways has been increased by about Rs 7,000 crore."
The budgetary allocation for the ministry of road transport and highways has been increased to Rs 71,000 crore for 2018-19 from Rs 64,900 crore in the ongoing fiscal.
Gadkari said, "Higher allocation for infrastructure will augment it, will create new employment potential" and the sector will contribute significantly to the economy.
The transport minister said he was happy that Jaitley announced promoting seaplanes.
The FM in his budget speech said: "For promoting tourism and medical care, the government will make necessary framework for encouraging investment in seaplanes activities."
Also asserting that the government has laid an all-time high allocation for railway and road sectors, the finance minister said the government is committed to further augmenting the infrastructure.
National highways exceeding 9,000 km will be completed in 2018-19, he said and highlighted the Bharatmala scheme which has been approved for providing seamless connectivity to interior and backward areas and borders of the country.
Under the phase-I of the project, 35,000 km of highways would be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 5.35 lakh crore.
He also said the NHAI will consider organising road assets into SPV.
He also announced "pay as you use" toll system saying that cash payment system at toll plazas is being replaced with Fastags electronic payment system.
For Indian Railways, he said the government has allocated capital expenditure of Rs 1,48,528 crore for 2018-19, and all trains will soon have state-of-the-art facilities such as WiFi and CCTVs.
Jaitley said the government will continue to work on redevelopment of 600 railway stations and railways plans to procure 12,000 wagons, 5,160 coaches and 700 locomotives.
Regarding airports, Jaitley said the the government will improve their capacity across the country.
He said the push will also be towards the government's regional connectivity scheme that has already connected 16 new airports and will connect 56 unserved airports and 31 helipads.
"To secure India's defence, we are developing connectivity infrastructure in the border areas," he said, adding that Rohtang tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity while contract for the construction of the Zojila pass tunnel of more than 14 km is progressing well.
"I propose to take up the construction of a tunnel under the Sela pass," he said adding that the government was also focusing on seaplanes.
"For promoting tourism and emergency medical care, the government will make necessary framework for investment in the seaplane activities," he said.
The FM also underlined that urbanisation is opportunity and priority and said that the government has already launched Smart City mission that aims at creating state-of-the-art amenities.
“Ninety-nine cities have been selected at an outlay of Rs 2.04 lakh crore. These cities have started implementing various projects like smart roads, solar roof, intelligent transport system. Projects worth Rs 2,350 crore have been completed and work of Rs 20,850 crore has been under progress," Jaitley said adding that heritage cities will be preserved and revitalised.
He also said the government will develop 10 tourist destinations to attract more visitors.
Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters