The beginning of the end of the first decade of this millennium is round the corner, and it is time we took a step back and checked if we managed to do what we intended to in the area of ‘infrastructure development,’ begins Amrit Pandurangi, Leader-Transportation and Infrastructure Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, during the course of a recent year-end email interaction with Business Line.

“The good news first. The debate about ‘investing’ in infrastructure, importance of mainstreaming private sector into infrastructure creation and financing, and PPP as a good model for the country are all over,” he adds. “No one – and that is, all political parties and the bureaucrats – is asking those questions now.”

So, what is the bad news? Not only we haven’t moved fast enough in implementation but we are not yet willing to accept that we have failed in execution, Amrit rues.

Excerpts from the brief interview.

At the start of the century, or even mid-decade, what were the policy expectations to be fulfilled by the end of the first decade?

We began the decade with good goals – of rapidly expanding investments in all infrastructure sectors, focus on connectivity across the length and breadth of the country, significantly higher importance on core infrastructure sector policies and institutions and trusting the private sector to deliver infrastructure.

At the close of 2009, where are we?

Culturally, we seem to have this problem of taking a very casual approach to some serious issues. Poor execution happens because we don’t seem to “plan” well, don’t seem to “build capacity in institutions to execute,” don’t seem to believe in serious “communication with affected parties,” don’t seem to feel bad when we don’t deliver, etc.

Many people will probably accuse India of not having the right infrastructure policies or strategies. I don't agree. We may not have the best of policies or strategies in place, but we are more than half way there. We are in an evolving and growing market and we needn’t wait for perfect policies and strategies. However, when it comes to implementing what we have agreed, we score a mere 1 on 10.

For 2010, what should be the agenda?

So we are now in the last year of this decade and what can we do to make this decade not a lost one. The solution is very simple. Even as we are trying to fine tune our policies and strategies, let us focus on learning from our good implementers. Look around and you will find lots of them – from the private sector and the public sector.

If the Delhi Metro can give us a proud network ahead of schedule, and if Tatas can set up an ultra mega power project faster than planned, why not learn from them. Simple and well-established concepts of resource planning, project management, capacity building, communication and monitoring your progress with mid-course correction need to be accepted first and brought into practice in a massive way – almost with a missionary zeal in all infrastructure projects.

And private sector expertise can be pulled in for this in a big way. This “mindset change” needs a strong political push as also a reward-penalty system to bring in a much higher level of accountability. Let us make 2010 the “launch year” for the next decade – the decade of focus on execution. As the famous Nike ad says…‘just do it.’


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