With plans for double digit economic growth each year, India must work quickly to get their infrastructure in shape. Prime minister Manmohan Singh recently stated that he was going to double infrastructure spending from 500 billion dollars to 1 trillion in their five-year plan. Right now the country's poor infrastructure is holding back India's economic development. All-in-all India's highways minglister Kamal Nath set a goal of 20km of roads a day starting in June. That's almost 7,000 km of roads a year! That's an ambitious target but may be something this country needs.
Currently roads carrying two-thirds of cargo have irregular surfaces or have lots of potholes. National highways carry 40% of traffic in India and only account for 2.2% of roadways. What's more is that 20% of these highways only have one lane. With costly delays and the lenghth of travel, this is one big bottleneck that is stopping India from it's enormous potential.
In 1998 the government came up with the ambitious project to link the four main cities of India through a network of nearly 6,000km of four-lane highways. Seeing how this has helped these cities is the reason behind the plan. Local farmers can more easily sell fresh vegetables to trucks and traders who will trade them elsewhere. There are so many new opportunities for local traders that will make this project all worth it. A World Bank study assessed that every single rupee invested in the highways sector yields seven rupees in econonmic value. That's a great return!
One problem could be India's history of investor-unfriendly rules. India needs a tremendous amount of capital and resources for this project to work, not to mention the expertise to get it done. Many question whether or not the 20km a day goal can happen. Some say there isn't a capacity this great to handle such a project in India. Kamal Nath said whether it means writing articles in the Wall Street Journal to woo foreign investors, criss-crossing the globe with his team to drum up interest or negotiating with state transport ministers to clear bureaucratic bottlenecks, he says nothing is being left to chance. Investors are afraid that the Indian government will over promise and under deliver again, and hopefully this project can prove them all wrong.