- The Budget has come up with various proposals for the development of Infrastructure in the country.
Private sector involvement in Railways
- Current Status:
- At present, engines and wagons that are part of railway rolling stock are the ones that are manufactured privately.
- Laying tracks and railway services have not been opened up yet though private port railways are operational in some stretches.
- PPPs for growth:
- Going forward, the Indian Railways will make significant use of public-private partnership(PPP) projects for growth.
- PPP is proposed to unleash faster development and completion of tracks, rolling-stock manufacturing and delivery of passenger freight services.
- A steep jump in private sector investment will be difficult in the current situation, where the Indian Railways is both the operator and regulator.
- To make this happen, the establishment of an independent railway regulator is essential.
Urban transit system:
- Railway infrastructure has been given an important link with urban transit systems.
- RRTS: Railways would be encouraged to invest more in suburban railways through special purpose vehicle (SPV) structures such as Rapid Regional Transport System (RRTS) proposed on the Delhi-Meerut route.
- Metros: It has also proposed to enhance the metro-railway initiatives, while supporting Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to ensure commercial activity around transit hubs.
- Budget made proposals to restructure the National Highways programme to ensure inter-linking of highways through a grid.
- National Highway Grid of desirable length and capacity will be created using a financiable model. It is expected to connect 12 major ports, 45 out of 53 million plus cities and 26 State capitals apart from linking tourist destinations and religious places.
- After completing Phase 1 of the Bharatmala project, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will assist State governments to develop State Highways.
- The government has set an investment target of Rs 80,250 crore for phase three of the Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana, under which the government wants to build 1,25,000 km of village roads.
- The earlier phases of this scheme led to the construction of 30,000 km of village roads with green technology, which will continue
- The Budget has proposed an enhancement of foreign direct investment in the civil aviation sector.
- It will bring the necessary investments and would lead to healthy competition.
- Increasing FDI limits is also likely to help troubled airlines such as Air India and Jet Airways find buyers.
Aircraft leasing and finance
- Most Indian airlines lease aircraft from overseas-based companies due to a dearth of domestic options.
- Hence, the government will implement measures to make the country a hub of aircraft leasing and aviation finance.
- This is critical to the development of a self-reliant aviation industry, creating aspirational jobs in aviation finance, besides leveraging the business opportunities available in India’s financial special economic zones (SEZs).
- However experts claim that unless it gives tax exemptions and creates a robust mechanism that prevents double taxation, foreign leasing companies will not be interested to set up business in India.
- The government is also keen to provide an enabling ecosystem for growth of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry in the country to achieve self-reliance in the aviation sector.
- Most Indian carriers service their aircraft abroad as domestic MRO attracts high taxes, which further increases costs of airlines.
- It will not only boost the local industry but also contribute to the government’s tax revenues.
- The budget stressed the need to enhance port-led development through the Sagarmala. The scheme would enhance port connectivity, modernisation and port-linked industrialisation.
- In line with the announcement, the allocation for Sagarmala was enhanced from Rs 381 crore to Rs 550 crore, an increase of 44%.
- It also stressed on the importance of development of inland waterways to use rivers for cargo movement, to decongest road and rail networks, reduce the cost of transportation as well as cut oil import bill.
- While a multi-modal terminal at Varanasi was launched last year, two more terminals at Sahibganj in Jharkhand and Haldia in West Bengal apart from a navigation lock at Farakka would be completed within the current fiscal
- The contribution to the Inland Water Transport Authority of India, too, went up from Rs 385 crore in the last fiscal to Rs 450 crore, a 17% increase.