Sunday, November 19, 2017

Infratrack

IACC hosts Infra conference

 

The third annual conference hosted by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce held last month was themed, ‘Taking US-India Economic Relations to the Next Level.’ The two day conference focused on various verticals in the infra sector, saw participation across industry verticals.

 

India’s infra sector has been the focus of many countries eager to participate in its modernisation and the USA is among countries in the forefront of this movement. The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), focused on developing India’s infrastructure and the billion dollars opportunities it will generate across sectors ranging from transport to telecommunications to energy and tourism. Leading industry experts from governments of both countries and their corporate sector debated over various issues and problems of infra development in India.

 

Delivering inaugural address of the conference, Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, applauded the IACC’s contribution to cement Indo-US ties, he said, “It was US-China partnership in the 20th century but the world’s oldest democracy and the biggest democracy are coming together in the 21st century. The indo-US relationship is assuming more importance given the excellent rapport Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi developed with previous US government headed by Barrack Obama and presently President Donald Trump.” He also announced that Maharashtra will launch infrastructure projects worth Rupees one lakh crore for 2017-18, adding that this will spur growth in sectors such as infrastructure, ICT, Tourism, among others. Underlining that Maharashtra has topped the Niti Aayog list of Indian states in terms of investment, particularly in infrastructure projects, he calculated that `5.96 lakh crore investments have gone into various projects in 2016-17. He said that the state has attracted 53 percent of total FDI channelized into the country in 2016-17 and has emerged the most sought after destination for foreign investors, including US companies.

 

Laying emphasis on the future investment that the state requires, Fadanvis said that technology, innovation, and infrastructure are the key focus areas. “The state has never experienced an economic growth of this dimension ever before as that has happened in the last three years. We will keep the tempo up in the coming years”, the Chief Minister assured. Highlighting the fact that the state has given impetus to improve the infrastructure, promoted ease of doing business, and introduced digital framework for seamless business activities, he called upon US companies to take advantage of Indian capabilities and demographic dividends given the fact that 50 per cent of Indian population is below 25 years of age.

 

The post lunch session on ‘Infrastructure: Ports, Inland Water Ways, Roadways & Logistics’ was addressed by Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, who highlighted the fact that the NDA government had managed to save Rs. Three lakh crore worth bank loans to the road sector which had plenty of NPAs. Lamenting the lack of bank’s support for the funding of road projects and delays in financial closures, Gadkari said his Ministry would seek newer avenues for funding. In this regard, he revealed that NHAI is going public to raise funds and is under process of listing on the stock exchanges. The Minister however, did not reveal details of the plan. Such a move will help the infrastructure projects to source resources from capital market, he said.

 

“There are no constraints in raising funds, we are capable of generating resources through innovative ways such as taking NHAI to public’, Gadkari said. That around 403 projects with a banking system exposure of Rs. Three lakh crore were stalled when the NDA government came to power in 2014. The government managed to revive most of these projects, thus saving `3 lakh crore from turning into stressed assets. The government terminated projects worth `500 lakh crore to set an example for those who delay their projects. Currently, there is not a single stalled road project, the Minister claimed. The Union Minister emphasized that all bottlenecks pertaining to land acquisition, environment and forest clearances and other bureaucratic hurdles have been removed and urged private investment in the sector.

 

“It is not only investment but we are looking for innovative technology from the investors,” Gadkari said, adding that the, “US companies can bring technologies that are efficient and cost-effective. In this regard, he flagged areas like ethanol based fuel efficient equipment; smart technologies for swift urban transport etc. can be marketed in India to reduce the huge import bill,” adding that, “The government is toying with the idea of Uber type of concept for auto rickshaws running on clean energy.”

 

He said priority should be given to waterways transport, railways, and then roads, for environment friendly and cost effective modes of transport. “The cost of moving men and materials through inland water is only a fraction of what that it would take haulage through rail and road. The government is presently considering several such projects including cruises to organically link inland transport with tourism.” Referring to the Sagarmala project, where the government would invest `6 lakh crore over the years, the Minister said that, “Industrial clusters will be set up near ports to help reduce transaction cost since transportation charges for domestic and international movements can be brought down.” He also referred to the steps taken by the government in linking surface transport, railways and waterways to make the movement of goods faster.

 

The second day of the conference was addressed by Piyush Goyal, Union Railway and Coal Minister, who assured that the situation of coal supply to power stations across the country will be normalized by the end of September or early October. “We are taking urgent measures to step up the coal supply to power stations,” he said. His assurance came in the backdrop of N Srinivasan, President, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), flagging the issue of the depleting stock of coal at power stations. “Instead of buffer stock of 30-40 days, most of the power stations are having stock for 2-3 days,” Srinivasan pointed out while welcoming the Union Minister. The shortage of coal stock at power stations augurs well as this will re-ignite the private investment more, Goyal said. Responding to another query from Srinivasan on whether the government would restore the coal cess, which the government subsumed to GST, the Minister said the cess was introduced with twin objectives of funding promotion of renewable energy and for fair pricing of coal based energy generation. Goyal, who was recently entrusted with the key Railways portfolio, said 100 per cent electrification of railways was his priority so that `16,000 crore spent on diesel import every year for Railways are saved.

 

 

About INDO AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE:

The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), established in 1968, is the apex bi-lateral Chamber synergizing India-US Economic Engagement. It was started by Ambassador Chester Bowles along with the then Industry leaders and visionaries like S L Kirloskar, Harish Mahindra, H. P. Nanda, Ambalal Kilachand, A. M. M. Arunachalam, Frederick Fales and John Oris Sims, for enhancing US India Economic Engagement. Today IACC has pan India presence with 2400 members at 12 locations, representing cross section of US and Indian Industry. The major objective of IACC is to promote Indo-American business, trade and economic relations. IACC promotes bilateral trade, investment and technology transfer, facilitates business collaborations, joint ventures, marketing tie-ups and strategic alliances through a set of proactive business-oriented initiatives.

 

IACC acts as a catalyst for sustainable growth of business between India and the US. In its four decades of existence, IACC has established operational connectivity with a host of business, research and developmental institutions in India and US in order to leverage each other’s capabilities for enhancing Indo-US business relations. The Chamber continuously interacts with the Indian and US Governments, and provides them feedback on bilateral issues relating to trade and investment. In essence, IACC also acts as a forum for its member companies to interact with senior functionaries of both the Governments. IACC member companies are involved in a cross-section of business domains such as manufacturing, engineering, construction, consumer goods, electronics, IT, pharmaceuticals, consulting, travel and tourism, etc.  The geographical spread of IACC is unique as it operates through 12 offices located throughout the country. These are in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Varanasi & Patna.




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