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.

Set for an infra-run

Data suggests that demonetisation has hit the pace of announcement of new investment proposals during the quarter-ended December 2016

The Union Budget has set the tone for 2017 by accelerating the growth agenda. The allocation for infrastructure at Rs 3.96 lakh crore, over Rs 3.49 lakh crore last year, will fuel the sector. Of the increase of Rs 47,000 crore, transport itself will consume Rs 24,000 crore.

The Railway Budget has been the largest-ever at Rs 1.31 lakh crore – an 8.26 per cent increase over the Rs 1.21 lakh crore allocated in 2016-17. Railway lines of 3,500 km will be commissioned in 2017-18 while at least 25 stations are expected to be awarded during 2017-18 for station redevelopment. Allocation for highways has been increased from Rs 57,976 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 64,900 crore in 2017-18. Around 2,000 km of coastal connectivity roads have been identified for construction and development.

The dark horse in the transport sector, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has gathered pace. Last year, when I asked Minister Nitin Gadkari at a CII meet, why the PMGSY programme, which had tremendous potential, was not going anywhere – he responded that it did not fall under his ministry but that the government was working on an impetus for it.

The pace of construction of PMGSY roads has accelerated to reach 133 km per day in 2016-17, as against an average of 73 km during the period 2011-2014. And, the Budget has continued to provide Rs 19,000 crore in 2017-18 for this scheme. Together with the contribution of States, an amount of Rs 27,000 crore will be spent on PMGSY in 2017-18.

The other big bang boost has been for the housing sector. National Housing Bank will refinance individual housing loans of about Rs 20,000 crore in 2017-18. Affordable housing has been given the ´infrastructure´ status, which will enable these projects to avail benefits including interest subvention. Further, a target to complete 1 crore houses by 2019 has been set for the homeless and those living in kutcha houses.

Allocation for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) has been raised from Rs 20,000 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 29,000 crore in 2017-18. Owing to these reforms, there is a likelihood of an ample availability of affordable housing in the next three years.

Among other infrastructure projects, the Metro projects will see the introduction of a Metro Policy and higher allocation of Rs 18,000 crore, against Rs 10,000 crore in the previous year. AMRUT and the Smart Cities mission will continue to move forward with an allocation of Rs 9,000 crore, against Rs 7,296 crore, as 60 selected cities gear up to issue tenders for city development.

The Namami Gange project has been allocated an increase of Rs 100 crore from Rs 2,150 crore to Rs 2,250 crore. And, Sagarmala has received an enhanced allocation of Rs 150 crore from Rs 450 to 600 crore. The Swachh Bharat campaign is being vigorously run and the allocation has risen to Rs 16,000 crore. Armed with the demonetisation swell in the banks, the finance minister had some head room to hold back the temptation of hiking the service tax in view of the forthcoming Goods and Service Tax (GST), which was a big relief. Further, though the large corporate sector did not get the tax reduction, the FM reduced taxes by 5 per cent for the MSMEs, which have an annual turnover of Rs 50 crore or less, thereby benefitting nearly 64 lakh companies.

Issues that need further attention by the ministry include implementation of the projects. Even the irrigation projects, which found mention in his last year´s Budget speech where 23 of the 99 projects would require to be completed by March 2017, are likely to miss the deadline. As per CMIE, new investment proposals worth Rs 1.25 lakh crore were observed during the quarter ended December 2016. This is low compared to the average Rs 2.36 lakh crore worth of new investments seen per quarter in the preceding nine quarters of the Modi Government. Data suggests that demonetisation has hit the pace of announcement of new investment proposals during the quarter-ended December 2016. Two hundred and twenty seven new investment proposals worth Rs 81,800 crore were announced during this quarter till November 8, 2016. In comparison, only 177 investment proposals worth Rs 43,700 crore were made between November 9 and December 31, 2016.

As for stalled projects, though the current government was to invigorate the economy by debottlenecking and accelerating these, the data points to the contrary. CMIE capex figures show that year-end stalled project figures for 2016 are at their highest levels since December 1995. The total value of stalled projects has reached Rs 11.70 lakh crore in the December quarter, accounting for 12.11 per cent of the total projects under implementation. Among the prime reasons for which the projects are stalled, ´obstacles in environment clearances´ contribute to 20 per cent while ´lack of promoter interest´ seems to be a growing trend over ´land acquisition issues´.

However, the absolute value of new project announcements shows that 2016 ranks second best among the last five years. This means that but for demonetisation, the economy was set for a run. Even if we examine the performance for the road sector, the contracts awarded and the length of roads constructed in the highway sector has been way behind claims of the road ministry.

The status of construction awarded and completed during September 2016 vis-a-vis targets set forth for 2016-17 are as follows:
However, the stage is set for a revival of the tempo. The Dispute Resolution Bill, release of funds for cases stuck in arbitration, reduction in interest rates, resolution of some severely stuck road projects, consolidation of some road assets and the infusion of some foreign capital, which has come to the rescue for some developers – all has signaled the dawn of the good times by Diwali 2016. And now, with the demonetisation impact easing up, the delayed dawn of good times is on the horizon again.

Bid, Bill, Build

The next three to four months will be, in a sense, most painful as while the sentiment seems to have improved, it would not be reflected in demonstrably higher sales and profits. So businesses will have to put on a happy face and yet suffer the last leg of the financial squeeze as the economy gains ground… Development and governance are the two wheels of the current government and the road is rocky but we have strong drivers: aspirations of the youngest population in the world and an unleveraged, unlimited potential.¨

This is the concluding paragraph of this column in September 2014. In October 2014, in the same column, I cited the various initiatives of the Modi sarkar. Indeed, the pains and aches of the previous government´s apathy are still hurting but the confidence that the initiatives taken by the current government will bear fruit is rising. The latest Cabinet approval permitting FDI in construction has reduced the minimum built area requirement for projects in which foreign investment is allowed to 20,000 sq m from 50,000 sq m and the minimum capital investment by foreign companies has been cut to $5 million from $10 million. The investor will be allowed to expatriate the investment on completion of the project or three years after the final investment is made provided the trunk infrastructure is complete for those plots. The new rules will encourage development of smaller plots in urban areas, where availability of land is limited. This will complement the initiative to build 100 smart cities. In fact, India received $1.2 billion of FDI in the financial year ended March 31 compared to $1.3 billion the previous year. Between April and August this year, it has received foreign investment worth $446 million. Now, this is likely to get a shot in the arm.

In the forthcoming winter session of Parliament commencing on November 24, 67 pending bills awaiting clearance can help ward off the lag effect of the turnaround. The Real Estate Regulation & Development Bill, Coal Mines Amendment Bill, Prevention of Corruption Act, revised Goods and Services Tax (GST) Constitution Amendment Bill, Land Acquisition Bill and Motor Vehicles Bill are just some important initiatives awaiting clearance that carry potent rocket fuel for the economy. Also, the proposed new Motor Vehicles Bill lays great emphasis on road safety and traffic management through new agencies specifically dedicated to forming and implementing new laws. It also proposes to create a National Road Transport and Multimodal Coordination Authority for coordination on road and other transport issues.

Although the road sector has lost much of its interest for Indian bidders, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Malaysia has offered to bid for five such projects costing over Rs 9,000 crore, giving PPP a new lease of life. New investors such as NGI and Tata Realty are bucking the trend and entering the sector as it offers better returns with most project risks already weathered by erstwhile promoters. Another development that would boost industrial production by simplifying the need for regulation and administration for SMEs, which account for over 30 per cent of industrial production, is the Small Factories Bill, in line with the amendments to the Factories Act. This Act will reduce the number of forms required for compliance with rules; allow SMEs to employ women in night shifts based on the fulfilment of certain conditions; and change the inspection system to one based on self-certification and inspections based on computer lots as announced by the government earlier this month.

Evidently, across the board, a huge, orbit shifting change is in the offing. And with a new set of investors and buyers having entered the markets, CW has issued a ´vendor alert´ in its cover story. Go get them.

Watch out for the 12th CW Annual Awards on November 21 at Four Seasons, Mumbai