The Government will kick-start a number of new infrastructure projects including 8 new airports and two new sea-ports in the coming months to boost sluggish economic growth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday.
With economic growth slowing to a decade low of 5 per cent, the Congress-led UPA government has further opened the economy to foreign direct investment and now wants to use investments for returning to high growth trajectory.
“We will start work on a number of new infrastructure projects in the coming months. This includes 2 new ports, 8 new airports, new industrial corridors and rail projects,” Dr. Singh said in his address to the Nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on the occasion of 67th Independence Day.
Listing out steps taken to boost infrastructure in the last nine years, he said about 2 lakh kilometer of new roads have been constructed for connecting villages under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna.
More than 37,000 km of new highways have been built to facilitate travel and trade ,while more than 40 airports have been built or upgraded.
“Our growth will accelerate, new employment opportunities will be generated and there will be improvement in the infrastructure sector,” he said.
Stating that inadequate supply of coal had affected electricity generation, he said, “This has been resolved to a large extent.”
Dr. Singh said the government has eased investment caps in several sectors and simplified procedures to boost flow of foreign direct investment.
Last month, the limit on foreign holdings in telecom was raised from 74 per cent to 100 per cent while restrictions in a dozen other sectors from insurance to tea plantations were eased or abolished.
In several sectors such as oil refining, commodity exchanges and single-brand retailing, FDI has been allowed under automatic route rather than requiring official approval.
“In the coming months, we will see visible results of these efforts to increase investment. Our growth will accelerate, new employment opportunities will be generated and there will be improvements in the infrastructure growth,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that government has recently taken several steps to speed up the process of government clearances for industry, build an environment more conducive to trade and industry and increase investment in the economy.
“A special cell has been set up to help big projects with clearances. The Cabinet Committee on investment is working to remove hindrances in the way of stalled projects,” he said.
Dr. Singh said there had been good progress in the last 9 years in the infrastructure sector in areas such as roads, railways, power, civil aviation, ports and telecommunications.
He mentioned that telephone connections in the country have now reached 73 per cent from only 7 per cent in 2004.
“In rural area, this figure has gone up from 2 to 40,” he said.
“There has been a record addition to our capacity for electricity generation,” he said.