The private sector will have to increase its participation in infrastructure projects if the country has to progress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday. Inaugurating a conference on ‘Building Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities’, he said infrastructure would need a projected investment of $320 billion (Rs 14,50,000 crores) up to 2012, which public resources cannot possibly meet.
“We will need to run hard just to stay where we are. Our growth potential will be realised only if we can ensure that our infrastructure does not become a severe handicap... It is imperative we explore avenues for increasing investment in infrastructure through a combination of public investment, public private partnerships and occasionally, exclusive private
investments wherever possible,” he said.
The Prime Minister recognised that attracting private capital would be “neither easy nor automatic”. But he promised a transparent policy, admitting more had to be done to bring about an independent and proper regulatory mechanism.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram highlighted the success of public private participation in the telecom and aviation sectors.
Nath: States to decide on SEZs
After Sonia Gandhi’s warning at the Congress's Nainital conclave against acquiring prime agricultural land for setting up special economic zones (SEZs), Congress ministers have grown extremely wary. Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, an early champion of SEZs, has put the onus of identifying and acquiring lands for SEZs squarely on the state governments.
“No SEZ project is approved without the state government’s clearance. The state should ensure that the land acquired is not prime agricultural land,” he said at Saturday’s infrastructure conference.
Nath said the allegation that land acquisition for SEZs was a scam was totally unfounded. He said there were clearly spelt out guidelines. Nath added that housing projects were generally limited to 25 per cent of an SEZ’s area, and were built for the workforce serving there.