India seeks $1-billion loan from World Bank for Bharat Nirman

Ahluwalia briefs Wolfowitz on progress in conceptualising programme

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Union Government is planning to tap the World Bank for a $1-billion loan for its Rs. 1,74,000-crore Bharat Nirman programme to develop rural infrastructure.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Monetek Singh Ahluwalia broached the proposal during discussions with its president, Paul Wolfowitz, here on Friday.

Mr. Wolfowitz had meetings with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and his officials and the Planning Commission, and called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

During discussions, the Government sought to project a funding requirement much higher than $3 billion it now receives annually from the multilateral institution.

Presentation on projects

At Yojana Bhavan, the Commission made a presentation on the projects the Government intends taking up and the fund requirement. Dr. Ahluwalia briefed Mr. Wolfowitz on the progress in conceptualising the Bharat Nirman programme, the status of infrastructure, the growth in different sectors and the financing plans for various projects.

"A flagship programme"

Briefing newspersons, Dr. Ahluwalia said: "We have mentioned that India could easily absorb something of the order of a billion dollars in the Bharat Nirman programme. We have said that this is certainly a flagship programme." The country would need massive funds, including external assistance, over the next few years especially during the Eleventh Plan period (2008-13) for infrastructure programmes.

Progress of projects

At his meeting with Mr. Chidambaram and North Block officials earlier, Mr. Wolfowitz discussed the progress of the World Bank-funded projects and loan requirements.

India wants the World Bank to increase the loan quantum in the coming years, mainly to finance infrastructure projects.

"A good meeting"

Mr. Wolfowitz said: "We had a very good meeting. We discussed World Bank-funded development projects in the country and infrastructure projects, including water... The World Bank chief also discussed India's progress in its `Millennium Development' goals, especially in poverty reduction programmes.

He met Dr. Singh over lunch but details of the meeting were not available.

Mr. Wolfowitz, who is on a four-day visit to India, arrived on Wednesday and visited some of the Bank-funded projects in Hyderabad.

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