Highways sector may get 27% hike in Budget, ministry says not enough
Although we won’t require the money immediately, it will definitely affect the planning of the highway expansion programmes. A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
NEW DELHI: With highway development one of the key priorities of the NDA government, the sector is likely to get a leg up in the 2016-17 Budget to be announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday.
Government sources said the highway ministry is set to see a 27 % increase in allocation. The ministry is likely to get ₹58,000 crore in the new fiscal as against the ₹85,000 crore that it had sought from the finance ministry. In 2015-16, it got ₹45,751 crore.
Though the jump is substantial compared to what some of the other infrastructure sectors are likely to get, ministry officials say it’s not enough to kickstart the government’s ambitious highway expansion programmes such as Bharatmala, an umbrella scheme with an estimated cost of ₹2.6 lakh crore that envisages developing about 24,000km roads along coastal and border areas besides building highways connecting backward areas and places of religious and tourist importance among others.
“Though we won’t require the money immediately, it will definitely affect the planning of the highway expansion programmes,” said an official.
The government has set a target of building 30km of highways per day over the next four to five years that will require ₹1.8 lakh crore over and above the budgetary support.
Considering the target that has been set, the ministry will have to scout for alternative sources of revenue, including tapping the bond market to fund highway expansion.
The ministry has also finalised the blueprint to auction completed public-funded road projects to domestic and international players for operation and maintenance for 15-20 years. Many overseas investors have shown interest in taking over completed projects but shied away in absence of a clear policy.
The previous NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee had also accorded high priority to high development. The much touted National Highway Development Programme was launched during that time.