20 years ago there was lots of discussion in India about how to attract more private sector investment in infrastructure. Then between 2004-11 India saw a boom in private sector investment in infrastructure. For a variety of reasons that did not go down well with the public and with the banking system. So now again, we have reverted to predominantly Government driven investment in infrastructure.
“…we got a huge increase from 2003 to 2011: a gain of roughly 10x in nominal rupees. By 2011, there was a stock of roughly Rs.25 trillion rupees of private infrastructure investment projects that were under implementation. After that, private infrastructure projects have receded substantially. We have a decline of Rs.5 trillion in nominal terms. If inflation were taken into account, that is a decline of another 25%.
How has government infrastructure investment activity fared? This shows a picture of steady growth. In 2011, both private and government projects were at roughly Rs.25 trillion. From there, the private projects have dropped to Rs.20 trillion while the government has gone on to Rs.38 trillion. There is growth in the stock of government infrastructure investment projects under implementation, even after you take out the 25% increase in prices from 2011 till today….What’s the overall picture of infrastructure investment? Putting the two together…the private sector is losing ground and government infrastructure projects are gaining ground.”
Against this backdrop, Ajay Shah reiterates the need to attract private sector money to infrastructure. “The private sector will use capital more effectively, deliver a better incremental capital-output ratio, and take care of assets better. Conversely, public sector domination of infrastructure investment is going to deliver reduced bang for the buck.….In the first wave of pushing private sector participation, we did not adequately understand that private participation in infrastructure requires complex institutional machinery. The government’s role in infrastructure is in three parts: Planning, Contracting and Regulating. Clear structures needed to be established for each of these three pillars. Mechanisms were required for resolving disputes and protecting cashflows from user charges. We needed to keep our eye on the prize: the projects that come out of all the complexities of the early stage and make it into the listed space, as boring utilities who just collect user charges and do O&M. With the benefit of hindsight, we went about private sector investment in infrastructure in a slipshod manner.
In the recent period, instead of fixing these institutional complexities, there has been an excessive willingness to give up on private sector participation and make do with muscular State-led investment. It feels like an entire generation of institutional memory, about the problems of public sector infrastructure investment, has been lost. We are now running a Chinese-style risk of large investments going in with low returns in terms of incremental GDP per unit investment.”
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Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor financial advice. Marcellus does not seek payment for or business from this publication in any shape or form. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services. Marcellus Investment Managers is also regulated in the United States as an Investment Advisor.
Copyright © 2022 Marcellus Investment Managers Pvt Ltd, All rights reserved.
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