Challenging circumstances have unfolded in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although there are echoes in plagues and the spread of viruses in both far and recent pasts, the Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in many ways. Firstly, it touches upon nearly every country on earth due to a world more connected than ever before. And secondly, we’ve seen the incredibly swift response, which has included long drawn lockdowns, development of vaccines and medical science at a breakneck speed as well as a re-imagining of how we live.
Our re-imagined lives will reflect in the infrastructure we create. It is but natural that almost all businesses and development have been adversely impacted by the pandemic. Infrastructure is no exception, and the ambitious Indian growth targets seem impossible to reach. The lockdowns have slowed down or in some cases brought to a halt project development due to unavailability of workers, materials or financial stress. Banks and financial institutions have been chary of lending to the sector. The effects of the pandemic have exposed the systemic weaknesses of institutions as well as the regulatory and contractual framework of the sector.
However, the infrastructure sector is still seen as a huge investment opportunity with high volume of private equity investment, including FDI coming in through the last year. The Government of India’s push through various measures, including the National Infrastructure Pipeline has caught the attention of the world. New investments have been made in the road, railways and power sector, with renewable energy leading the fore. On the operational front, despite the difficulties, existing projects supplied the populace with utilities without a break, showing resilience.
The Union Budget for the year 21-22 also lays emphasis on infrastructure with the proposed investment in the sector allocated being 34.5% more than that in the previous year. Stress has been laid on the development of the road and rail infrastructure in the country for seamless national trade, presumably as a reaction to the difficulties faced during the lockdown. The Government has also proposed to set up a new financial institution to be known as the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development, which will be set up with a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore and an initial grant of Rs 5,000 crore, recognizing the liquidity crunch inhibiting growth of infrastructure.
It is against this inflection point for the sector, that ELP has revised its book ‘Infrastructure Projects in India: From Cradle to Grave to Resurrection’. This book is our endeavor to give our readers an in-depth view of ELP’s collective cross – practice experience on infrastructure projects in India. We attempt to highlight practical difficulties that arise from the complex tangles created in the intersections of law, project development and financing. We have also been lucky to get a ‘hands on’ view from clients and experts in their field, for which we are very grateful.
We remain cautiously optimistic about the growth of infrastructure in India, while envisioning a strengthening of social infrastructure, technological advances, urban infrastructure development and greater connectivity. The world is still in the throes of the pandemic, processing its fallout. What we believed as axioms may have to be abandoned. A more humanistic approach in all spheres, including infrastructure, is needed as we recalibrate our lives.