High­ways sec­tor may get 27% hike in Bud­get, min­istry says not enough

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - Moushumi Das Gupta

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.

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