In November 2010, a can of worms opened and scams worth billions tumbled out for one year; then, there was "policy paralysis". By November 2011, industrialists like Azim Premji and Kumarmangalam Birla and stalwarts like Deepak Parekh urged the government to break its inertia and soon the Anna Hazare movement caught the imagination of the masses and they went for the jugular, in the form of their demand for the Lokpal Bill. The ruling government then made a move by allowing international brands and retailers up to 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector and 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail. This move has now evolved into IKEA getting clearance to set up their retail operations in India. One full year has passed and the Parliament is still in a logjam over FDI! Inactivity and logjam over projects have caused contracting companies to resort to unhealthy debt, which has eroded the market capitalisation of listed construction companies. Here"s how Sadbhav Engineering has stolen a march over Gammon India and Patel Engineering: Gammon India with annual sales for FY 12 of Rs 5,533 crore (unaudited Rs 7,000 crore) has a order book position of Rs 14,000 crore but market capitalisation of only Rs 510 crore weighed down by a debt of Rs 2,700 crore. It reported a net loss in the June 12 quarter of Rs 20 crore which has escalated to Rs 40 crore in the September 12 quarter. Patel Engineering, which also has a market capitalisation of Rs 540 crore, despite annual sales for FY 12 at Rs 2,550 crore (half of Gammon India) is also weighed down by a debt of Rs 1,880 crore even though its order book position is a healthy Rs 10,000 crore. Sadbhav Engineering, on the other hand, has been conservative while others went aggressively outbidding each other; and now has quietly moved in for the kill. Its order book has grown to nearly Rs 8,000 crore and with sales of Rs 2,676 crore, it has kept its debt burden at bay at Rs 402 crore giving it a fillip in market capitalisation of four times Patel Engineering and Gammon India at Rs 2,076 crore! Nearly Rs 500,000 crore of loans extended to the realty sector are seeing an increasing tendency towards a default. According to reports, total real-estate bad loans, net of provisions of all commercial banks, rose 55 per cent to Rs 64,900 crore on March 31, 2012, from Rs 41,700 crore on March 31, 2011. The share of state-run banks in this was Rs 59,100 crore, up 64 per cent from Rs 36,000 crore. Debt, as one can see above, is currently a financial cancer, which although being treated remains a fatal threat. The needs of both the contracting industry and realty sector must be resolved as they have an over 10 per cent impact on GDP growth. Further, appointing a fast-track mechanism to release amounts stuck in disputes would be a better way of easing the financial burden for the sector. Best wishes for an active, "project-filled" year ahead in 2013!