Tag Archives: GST

Why Public Works needs to work for private!

Have you noticed that the size of project execution has grown manifold? New projects worth Rs 1.95 trillion were announced in the January to March quarter, up from Rs 1.20 trillion in the previous quarter. The capacity of companies in delivering larger projects has expanded. Earlier, we would rarely discuss a few mega projects concurrently in progress. But now, we have the launch of the Rs 167 billion Navi Mumbai International project; the finalisation of 18 bidders for the Rs 460 billion Mumbai Nagpur expressway for which work is expected to commence this September; launch of the Rs 79 billion fourth container project at JNPT to be operated by Singapore ports – all have raised the bar on value, scale and size. However, the construction sector’s share in India’s overall gross value declined to 7.4 per cent in the financial year 2017-18 (FY18) from 9.6 per cent in FY12 owing to poor demand in the real estate sector and lower capital expenditure. Essentially, private sector spending, which contributed a big chunk in infrastructure, has remained shy, and public spending purses have opened to drive the momentum.

The government has finally recognised this imbalance and the GST council is likely to reduce tariff from 28 per cent to 18 per cent for paints, cement, plywood, plaster, etc, later this month to give a fillip for building materials. The PMAY drive to build ‘Housing for All by 2022’ has Rs 600 billion being deployed to build 12 million houses with 0.3 to 0.5 million houses being built every month! Recently, the consortium of Tata Projects, Capacit’e Infraprojects and CITIC Group has been awarded a Rs 117.44 billion project by the Maharashtra Government for redevelopment in Mumbai. This year is all about stepping up awarding of contracts and expediting execution and we are likely to see results of construction companies improve. Non-clarity of our tax laws has been a major reason for litigation and corruption. This has helped the legal profession but paralysed our economic growth. While our ranking in the Ease of Doing Business improved to the 100th position among 190 countries, we are still ranked 119th in paying taxes, 164th in enforcing contracts, and 181st in dealing with construction permits.

Contractors are yet to be compensated by the Public Works Department (PWD) of various states for GST compensation on rates reduced from 18 per cent to 12 per cent for government contracts. Since, Tier-II and Tier-III centres are driving growth in aviation, automobiles and e-commerce, the 13th Construction World Architect & Builder (CWAB) Awards are going “Regional” too. Having completed Kolkata, CWAB is concluding its ‘Regionals’ in Pune, Bengaluru and Delhi and recognising talent all round. Get set for CWAB 2018 scheduled on 12th September in Mumbai.

Check website for more details: www.CWABawards.com

Quality over quantity

Oil, the single biggest factor that helped the government manage the fiscal deficit, has climbed from its advantageous position to well over $75. Even as GST is gaining stability, the E-way bill has caused feathers to be ruffled again. Not only are small companies having to contend with compliance changes a bit too often, there are certain anomalies that require clarification. GST for government contracts has been brought to 12 per cent while GST on private contracts is at 18 per cent. The only good news on the macro front is that a normal monsoon is expected.

However, the outlook is positive for 2018-19. Roads and highways are gathering pace with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari laying the construction target for 2018-19 at 45 km per day. He has also raised the award target to 20,000 km for the current fiscal, up 25 per cent over the previous year.

Year         Roads awarded (km)    Roads constructed (km)
2017-18        17,055                           9,829
(Actual)
2018-19         20,000                           16,420
(Target)

Mumbai’s Development Plan (MDP) 2034 has been released after revisions and has hiked the FSI in the island city to 3 from 1.33 for residential, and 5 for commercial.
In the suburbs, FSI has been raised from 2 to 2.5 for residential and from 2.5 to 5 for commercial. MDP 2034 proposes to unlock 3,700 hectare of public and private land currently tagged as a no-development zone (NDZ) for the construction of 10 lakh affordable homes.

While the unlocking of the land will be from no-development zones, FSI has been enhanced in the island city, which is landlocked. This is likely to put severe pressure on the current infrastructure. While the metro-rail should ease traffic congestion bringing enhanced capacity to public transport, the lack of any build-up in capacity in water, sanitation and waste management will throw the city into an accelerated pace of decay.

The ban on the construction of new buildings, too, was recently lifted by the Supreme Court for six months, with conditions. The ban, which held up construction projects worth Rs 20 billion, had been granted as landfill sites were saturated and developers and contractors were dumping debris all over the city.

The above impetus for construction can help the industry exponentially, provided it also enables its key actors: The workers. With only 4 per cent of the current 32 million construction workers skilled, obtaining high productivity through mechanisation and use of advanced tools remains a pipe dream. An unskilled force will set us to lose qualitative aspects in the quest to chase quantitative targets. Our cover story unravels the pitfalls ailing the industry and what it needs to do to muscle up!

2018: A Watershed Year?

‘Disruption’ was an oft-used word in 2017. Sometimes it was used when describing a phenomenon that turned an existing business model on its head, as Uber and Airbnb did. But more often than not, it was used when wishful thinking was allowed over logic, or when no clear solution was visible.

In essence, disruption represents a desire to change the status quo. Jio has challenged the status quo, but then it has deep pockets. Meanwhile, HAM tried to be a game-changer but did not get the desired results. The smart cities mission took on urban rejuvenation through inspiration – but it has achieved limited success.

That said, land pooling by Andhra Pradesh proved to be an intelligent solution. And, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has been a game-changer. It is addressing the need to revive assets that have potential for productivity but need some respite. Assets changing hands will ensure that they do not lie idle and rot. Putting them to use enhances the GDP.

In the construction sector, too, consolidation is the name of the game. Stressed owners are selling prime assets and seeking a new lease of life. New buyers are seeking revenue earning assets at good value. This allows a more liquid market in trading revenue-yielding assets such that the investor has an exit route and can free up capital in engaging with new opportunities.

Our cover story sets the tone for the year 2018 as Union Minister Nitin Gadkari spells out his plans for Bharatmala and Sagarmala with timelines and investments. Gadkari’s commitment to work and penchant for numbers and details are legendary. After meeting our editorial team at 7 am, he continued the discussion through his personal grooming process and then set out for the airport! He has a challenge ahead of him as he revs up to accelerate the road construction per day rate.

Indeed, the year ahead is likely to be a watershed one for the construction industry. Here’s why:

  • The GST effect has stabilised and demand is limping back.
  • The demonetisation wounds have healed.
  • Ease of doing business has helped ease regulatory hurdles.
  • The Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code has helped revived several projects.
  • Credit disbursement has picked up and private-sector investment is likely to revive.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat are likely to expedite their projects.
  • There will be ample provision for big-ticket infrastructure projects as next year’s Budget is likely to be completely populist.
  • Maximum contracts will be awarded in FY2018-19 so that they are secured before the election code kicks in by the time of the next Budget.
  • In other news, SM@RT URBANATION opens on March 22-23, 2018, in Hyderabad. Over 25 city officials will descend to seek knowledge on the latest technological smart solutions for cities at the two-day summit and expo, including an evening of awards.

To know more, check out www.SmartUrbanation.com.
And don’t forget to keep your eyes on CONSTRUCTION WORLD on the web and print – we’ll keep you up-to-date on every opportunity so you can stay ahead!

Getting Back on Track

GST rate reduction from 28 per cent to 18 per cent has provided a breather to the construction equipment industry. Although 15 per cent of items would still be at 28 per cent, the major grouse has been addressed. That said, as many as 42,710 units were sold between January and September this year, against 37,346 units in the same period in the last financial year. Just this year, the number of units sold has equalled the prior record of 70,000 units sold during 2011. The industry has grown by 19 per cent in Q1 and 22 per cent in Q2 except for the 35 per cent dip in July owing to GST implementation, according to ICEMA reports. With an eye on growth of over 25 per cent, the construction equipment industry is gearing up for EXCON 2017, to be held from December 12 to 16 in Bengaluru, spread over 260,000 sq m. Although real estate has been tottering, projects like Bharatmala Pariyojana and metro-rail projects across the country are fuelling the revival alongwith irrigation and urban rejuvenation projects.
There is a move to bring real estate under the GST ambit. However, the present constitutional amendment did not cover real estate and stamp duty continues to be within the domain of state tax. Several states may not be ready to part with stamp duty and therefore legalities are being explored. Even currently, as land is an immovable asset, the industry has been given 33 per cent abatement on the 18 per cent GST. Therefore, the effective charge on the sector, for property under construction, is now 12 per cent as against the listed 18 per cent. A further effect of input credit would bring the incidence down to 9 per cent or so. There is no GST on completed projects as they are considered immovable assets.
The unsung success of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) needs to be highlighted too. The highest-ever construction of 130 km rural roads per day has been achieved under the PMGSY, leading to an addition of 47,400 km of PMGSY roads in 2016-17.
PM Narendra Modi is planning to spend an additional $14 billion under this scheme by March 2020; about Rs 1.4 lakh crore has already been spent under the programme. The cost will be shared in a 60-40 ratio by the federal and state governments.
Logistics has now been provided infrastructure status, allowing the growth and expansion of this sector at easier financial cost, which can help in distribution and access of goods across the country. This will compliment the rollout of the GST.
Even though the second quarter of 2017-18 has had insipid financial results with the net profit of 1,300 BSE companies declining by 3.54 per cent from the same quarter the previous year and net sales rising 7.39 per cent during the same period, the periods ahead will improve as the base effects of demonetisation and relaxation of the GST effect will trickle in.

Stage Set for Revival?

As the GDP figures of 5.7 per cent appeared in the press, the murmurs began. GST was already making lives difficult for the traders and businessmen, and the ghosts of demonetisation had not completely vanished yet. The evidence of the economy sputtering emboldened the critics and turned the loyalists into skeptics. The government too moved at an amazing speed having realised that the wolves were beginning to bay for their blood. Establishment of the PM Economic Council was announced, and then, within a fortnight, a massive infusion of reforms was launched.

The Rs 6.92 trillion road network of 83,677 km, on the back of the GST reform, can be a potent economic multiplier in times to come. The road construction push includes the Bharatmala Pariyojana with an investment of Rs 5.35 trillion to construct 34,800 km. In addition, Rs 1.57 trillion will be spent on the construction of 48,877 km by NHAI and MoRTH. That said, NHAI has been made the nodal body to ensure timely execution. Financing is innovatively being raised by monetising road assets worth Rs 34,000 crore from 82 operating highways under the TOT model.

Further, the bank recapitalisation plan of Rs 2.11 trillion over the next two years, in a bid to clean banks’ books and revive investment, is a timely move. With this, the projects that will be put to bid can be funded by banks giving a boost to credit disbursal, which has fallen abysmally low.

Besides roads, the next biggest business opportunity has become the Metro-Rail project execution. Over Rs 2 trillion of business is up for grabs over the next few years with Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) itself contributing Rs 1.5 trillion. Metro projects with a total length of 370 km are operational in eight cities. Further, metro projects with a total length of 537 km are in progress in 13 cities. New cities acquiring metro services include Hyderabad (71 km), Nagpur (38 km), Ahmedabad (36 km), Pune (31.25 km) and Lucknow (23 km). Last month, the government introduced a New Metro Policy that focuses on giving clarity on the development of projects, collaborations, participation, standardising norms, financing, and creating a procurement mechanism to implement projects effectively.

Although the timing of the announcements may be scheduled to ensure that the economic agenda reaches a crescendo just before the elections, the forthcoming calendar year 2018 can be extremely rewarding with most contracts getting to fruition during this period.

After a long hiatus, the stage seems set for a revival and if the land acquisition hurdle can be overcome, we are headed for a frenetic pace ahead.

The construction ban is justified

The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for July was at its lowest in the past eight years and demand took a deep dive owing to GST adjustments. By the deadline of August 25, over 36 lakh businesses had filed their GST returns. The overall impact is indicated to be an upswing of 16.6 per cent on a comprehensive level, though some states would need compensation and others may have a beneficial gain. The disruption of demand has hurt the industry and is not likely to be compensated by the same quantum of the drop.

Demand needs momentum.
The interest relaxation of 25 bps was too meagre, given the low levels of inflation currently. Public spending will need to be kept up to hold the economic growth numbers. Even though Tata Steel and JSW have begun to plan their expansion, none will invest yet. They may be keener in making a pick from the stressed companies sounding their death knells at the altars of the NCLT.

The August 29 mayhem in Mumbai was a repeat of the havoc in 2005. Little has changed in 12 years. Although social media updated everyone earlier on what was to follow and office-goers left offices earlier, as the tracks were flooded, trains stopped, electricity cut off and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link closed, traffic was left in a complete jam.

The usual areas prone to water-logging caused several people to abandon their vehicles and walk home in the filth.

The High Court has banned new construction in Mumbai and an appeal to reverse this in May 2017 was thrown out by the courts. When I raised this issue with the BMC Commissioner at a conference, he had dismissed the suggestion, saying, ‘Stopping construction is not the answer.’ Then, Mr Ajoy Mehta, what is the answer? Is August 29 your answer?

Simply put, enhancing the infrastructure capacity of the city is the answer. So what is the capacity required for a city of our population in terms of storm-water drainage, solid waste management, power, water supply, and so on? Why can’t we have the BMC targeting these numbers for the creation of capacity? These should be linked to TDR charges and capacity creation should lead permissions. In our quest to win better ‘ease of doing business’ rankings, the number of permissions have been brought down – it would now take 60 days instead of over 200 in Mumbai and Delhi to get construction permits. But permissions should be given only after enough capacity is created. Why has the BMC not been able to provide even a dumping ground for construction debris, the original reason for the ban on construction? If construction is allowed to continue without the authorities providing for increase in capacity, we will soon be seeking the ‘right to breathe’ instead of ‘right to privacy’.

PRIME THE PUMP

Earlier in May, when I had asked Sajjan Jindal, chief of JSW – the group with the best appetite for capital investment – when the private sector would begin investing, he had replied that we were poised for an imminent renewal in sentiment for private investment. Recently, Ajay Piramal, head of Piramal Group and Shriram Group, reflected that a higher GDP number would initiate private investment flow into the economy. And, the World Bank projects that gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), which indicates investment demand in the economy, will grow by 6.8 per cent in FY18 and 8.8 per cent in FY19.

However, the situation appears to be suboptimal currently. According to CMIE, announcements of new industrial and infrastructural projects remained muted in the first quarter of 2017-18. Only 448 projects were announced during the quarter. This is the lowest quarterly project announcement seen since June 2014, the time when the last capex cycle bottomed out. Further, the completion of projects has dipped over previous consecutive quarters. Lower project initiation and a falling commissioning rate will be a double whammy – the only way to change this situation is to enhance the rate of commissioning of the project pipeline and, at the same time, improve the launch of new infrastructure projects. Stalled projects have also not seen any significant resolution. Ideally, the current government is in the best position to resolve and move this rapidly. If the RBI has recognised the need to resolve the mountain of debt through insolvency resolution professionals, why not seek help in resolving stalled projects too?

Foreign funds are keen to invest in toll-operate-transfer (TOT) projects so they can realise the toll yields on completed projects. Hence, NHAI is preparing to offer such completed projects and generate liquidity. Further, the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code will help quicker consolidation as companies find a solution for bailing out. L&T’s results also indicate that larger companies with stronger balance sheets can take on the burden of stressful financial cycles as contracting for infrastructure is essentially becoming a big boys’ game. There is a need for out-of-the-box solutions to resolve the infrastructure growth gridlock.

So, if private investment is yet to make its mark, what is keeping our engines sputtering if not humming? Public spending. Government spending grew by 13 per cent, year-on-year, in the two months April-May 2017 to touch Rs 4.6 lakh crore against Rs 2.9 lakh crore in April-May 2016. Capital expenditure for infrastructure creation and other assets rose 63 per cent in April-May to Rs 54,000 crore from Rs 33,000 crore in the same two months a year ago. With GST affecting working capital cycles, government spending will be needed to keep the economy pumped up.

Brace for impact!

Nagpur has been in the news ever since the political capital shifted under the current regime. All roads now lead to this ‘orange’ city which has always been a ‘capital in waiting’. The 710-km road that recently invited controversy was the Rs 46,000-crore Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, which revised its invitation for bids with a supplementary advertisement and caused much heartburn, as the riders imposed were allegedly introduced to outfox fair competition. The project, which is expected to be completed in two years, envisages 16 packages of construction. High-speed corridors have proven to bring prosperity within the corridor zone and this can pave the way for some political capital, as 24 new nodes will be developed in phases projected to generate employment for 25,000 people each across logistic, industrial, IT, agro-industry, tourism, education, healthcare, auto, warehousing and food processing, besides from social infrastructure development including hotels, malls, petrol pumps, offices, hospitals and educational institutes.

Thirty more smart cities have been added to the existing 60, taking the tally to 90 cities that have been selected under the Centre’s Smart Cities mission, taking the total budgeted spend to over $31 billion. Of the ones selected, 26 have proposed affordable housing projects, 26 cities will be taking up school and hospital projects, and 29 will be taking up redesign and redevelopment of roads to enable walking and cycling. Development is likely to score higher in smaller cities as the impact of infrastructure projects is more visible and has a life-changing impact. This underscores the importance of the recently launched Energy Conservation Building Code 2017 (ECBC 2017) developed by the Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). ECBC 2017 mandates a 25 per cent saving in energy for compliance. However, we recommend that the ECBC rating must devolve, unless renewed annually for effective compliance.

Led by its dynamic municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has created history by raising Rs 200 crore for its Rs 2,800-crore water supply project via bonds. The bonds have been listed on the stock exchanges. PMC plans to raise Rs 2,264 crore over the next five years and plans to repay the debt by enhancing its revenues through water charges.

The remarkable aspect of this issue was the appetite as the issue elicited oversubscription to the extent of Rs 1,200 crore. This sets the stage for a new stream of funds for municipalities while ushering in an era of transparency.

The worst news for India’s economy has been the loan waivers the state governments have conceded to, all at the altar of political capital. On the other hand, the GST juggernaut is ready to roll. Now, it’s time to brace for impact.

Don’t stymie equipment & technology

The recent inauguration of the 9.15-km Dhola-Sadiya Bridge, India’s longest bridge above water, by Prime Minister Modi coincided with the completion of three years of his government in office. Apart from underscoring the government’s emphasis on infrastructure, it also reaffirmed its resolve in improving connectivity to the Northeastern region. Built at Rs 1,000 crore under PPP with Navayuga Engineering over rivers Bramhaputra and Lohit, the bridge cuts travel time by four hours.

In fact, the Nitin Gadkari ministry has awarded 16,800 km of highway contracts and constructed around 8,500 km for the year ended March, taking the count up to 23 km per day. The 135-km Eastern Peripheral Expressway, being constructed to decongest Delhi, is scheduled for completion in the next few months. Similarly, other expressways to take off include Delhi-Meerut, Mumbai-Vadodara, Dwarka Expressway, Bengaluru-Chennai and Delhi-Jaipur. With HAM not being popular yet, EPC is the easier way to accelerate road development. The 43-km, 12-lane Dedicated Freight Corridor costing Rs 3,000 crore from JNPT (Navi Mumbai) to Panvel, being built to ease container traffic is also under construction. Further, the UDAN scheme envisages 45 new airports and 70 regional routes, and caps ticket fares at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights. Six new ports are being developed, and automobile and leather clusters have been planned alongside. Indeed, infrastructure bottlenecks are being addressed like never before and the pace is surely picking up.

However, the recent rate slabs announced under GST are likely to undermine infrastructure plans as construction equipment has been put under the same category as luxury cars! The rate applicable is 28 per cent; given the fact that 70 per cent of buyers of construction equipment are small entrepreneurs, small rental companies and hiring small setups, their capacity to buy will be affected and may deter the pace of execution. A pace of 40 km per day from the current 23 km would require extensive mechanisation and the government must consider a slab that encourages adoption. Categorising it with luxury cars is unfair – if the government thinks this equipment is purchased by companies that will pass on the tax impact, it is ill-advised. The Budget has allocated a spend of Rs 3.96 lakh crore on infrastructure in 2017-18 and this GST rate will result in inflating the cost, apart from affecting rightful demand. Even the ‘Make in India’ initiative that is helping the industry gain its status as an export hub will take a beating with the GST dampener. Given the importance of building infrastructure at a reasonable cost and easing the pressure of high financial costs hurting the infrastructure industry, a rate of 12 per cent for GST is being proposed.

We are getting there

NITI Aayog has put forth a plan to turn India’s economy to reach a size of $7.5 trillion, (though targeting $10 trillion) or more than three times of what it is today, at $2 trillion. Implementation of GST, tax reform and ease of doing business (read the Cover Story) are all parts of the building blocks of this plan. And, they all seem to be moving on course so far. India is on the throes of a massive change. The change is not only limited to economy and industry but is also being instituted in social behaviour, and most importantly, in changing mindsets. Just look at what all is happening: Swachh Bharat, Digital India, Smart Cities, AMRUT, Affordable Housing, E-governance, E-Procurement, Make in India, Direct Benefit Transfer, Demonetisation, black money campaign, renewable energy thrust, UDAN, etc, and other social campaigns such as the Ujwala Yojna, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and so on. This is a lot of work in so short a time and work is in progress.

The recently announced affordable housing scheme and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or PMAY have seen the launch of over 350 projects to build about 2 lakh houses with a private sector commitment of investing Rs 38,000 crore. The cost of constructing these units will be in the range of Rs 15 lakh to Rs 30 lakh with an average construction cost of Rs 18 lakh per house.

Under PMAY-U, central assistance is provided to each beneficiary in the range of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2.35 lakh. Of the 2 lakh houses, over 1 lakh will be constructed in Maharashtra, followed by 41,921 houses in the NCR; 28,465 in Gujarat; 7,037 in Karnataka; and 6,055 in Uttar Pradesh; among others. Cement prices have already reached pre-demonetisation levels on the back of demand coming from infrastructure and will firm further due to these housing projects.

GST is on track and is likely to cause another disruption for a quarter, but will soon bring great prosperity. Distressed assets of around $6.8 trillion sitting on books of the banks would also heave a sigh of relief as firms and funds like KKR, Lone Star, Kotak and Edelweiss are planning to mobilise their resurrection. It is estimated by experts that the capital required for the next four to five years to resolve distressed situations is about Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore, and it is already being provided for by NBFCs, PEs and international funds.

The PM completes three years on May 26 this month and a lot is on his plate. Fortunately, for us, his plans have accorded priority to infrastructure and while public spending is leading the way, the private sector is preparing to jump in the fray too. Recently, at a private charity function, I bumped into Sajjan Jindal, Chairman of JSW Group, and when I posed him a casual question on whether the private sector was ready to invest into the India story: “We are getting there,” he quipped.