National Roads & Highways Summit: An Initiative of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry

National Roads Highways Summit

'National Roads & Highways Summit- Opportunities, Issues & Solutions', recently organized by the Roads, Ports & Other Infrastructure Committee of PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry in New Delhi turned out to be a big draw. The summit drew over 150 participants and delegates from Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH), National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Border Roads Organization (BRO), Central Road Research Institute, Embassies and private infrastructure companies specialized in Roads and Highways building. Mr. Gajendra Haldea, Advisor Infrastructure, Planning Commission, Government of India, graced the event as its Chief Guest.

In his welcome address, President, PHD Chamber, Suman Jyoti Khaitan, stressed the need to enhance the capacity as well as the quality of road infrastructure of the country. He called upon authorities to address the constraints and bottlenecks confronting the sector on a priority basis. "We need to resolve financial and contractual issues, and at the same time ensure sustainability and bankability. There should be single window clearances," he demanded.

Addressing the gathering Chairman, Roads, Ports & Other Infrastructure Committee, PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Mr. Ashish Wig, in his presentation of the 'Industry Perspective' urged the policymakers to address the bottlenecks faced by the concessionaires in regard to highway projects.

While Mr. Gajendra Haldea in his Keynote Address stated that introduction of PPP required restructuring of institutions but unfortunately the institutional framework has not been created even within NHAI. He apprised the delegates that the Planning Commission is formulating a 'Dispute Settlement Bill' which will resolve disputes in road projects to a great extent. "Firstly, we need to recognize that ten years ago our highways were outdated but the adoption of the PPP model in highway building created a quantum jump both in quantum and quality of the roads. In fact, PPP is not just about financial engineering, but it's a world of contracts and investments," he said.

Mr. Anil Swarup, IAS, Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, in his Special Address, apprised the delegates that the Cabinet Secretariat has created a single web portal for all project developers through which they can communicate their problems with regard to a particular ministry. "By logging on to www.cabsec.nic.in, you can directly get in touch with us and we will try to find out tripartite solutions to your problems. I am looking after projects worth Rs.1,000 crore and above that have been stalled due to various reasons. Most of the complaints received are about the Road and Power Sectors."

Later in the day, in an exclusive and informal interaction with NBM&CW, Mr. Ashish Wig explained the rationale behind this summit. "In the 12th Plan, the government has laid a strong emphasis on creation of infrastructure with a planned investment of $1 trillion, 40% of which will be shelled out by the government and the rest will be infused by the private players. A substantial chunk of this investment is meant for roads, and over the years, the PPP proposition has aggressively pushed in this sector. But, due to several other sector scams, all the concerned officers were apprehensive in taking a decision and this had an impact on the Roads & Highways Sector as well. This coupled with rising interest rates by the banks has made PPP unviable in roads and highways. In fact, PHD Chamber was one of the first organizations to go to the grass-roots and find solutions for the various problems."

The summit had two technical sessions on 'Financial & Contractual Issues in Roads & Highways' and 'Global Advances in Technology & Material' where distinguished speakers from NHAI, Khaitan & Partners, SBI Capital Markets, CRRI as well as from Private Industry gave valuable suggestions for the roads and highways sector.

This was followed by two panel discussions on 'Environmental Clearances in Road/Highway Projects' and 'CEO's & CFO's Perspective on Project Execution challenges and Proposed Highway Regulator's role' which was addressed by CEO's of Reliance Infrastructure, GMR, Gayatri Projects, Srei Infrastructure and Metro Infrasys. Almost all the speakers and delegates felt the need for the regulator in the Roads and Highway Sector invested with full powers and accountability.
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