Nath to relook at roadblocks, meet stakeholders

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: May 30 2009, 06:12am hrs
Aiming at reviving the highways construction sector, Kamal Nath, who has taken charge of the ministry of road, transport and highways, on Friday said he would meet various stakeholders and address the roadblocks responsible for the lacklustre performance of the sector.

The poor show in the sector can be gauged from the fact that only 13 out of the 60 projects worth Rs 60,000 crore to be bidded out by December last year could be awarded till date.

We cannot wish away roadblocks. They have to be addressed. We are going to have a meeting with all stakeholders and participants like banks and private companies in the road construction sector. I am going to hold meetings with the states in the next one month to see where are the bottlenecks there and what are the changes we need to make. There cannot be an implementation void. There has to be performance, said Nath.

Speaking on the priorities for the first 100 days as envisaged by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Nath said: Our priorities will be to fast track the projects that have been stalled due to roadblocks and see that work begins there. In the next week or so, I will be working on the targets and priorities for the first 100 days. Most important of all, I have to work towards structural changes and to look at the change in the various models, where performance has not been possible.

Construction of highways projects in the country began with the simple engineering procurement contract model, in which private parties served as contractors building the projects. The first and second phases of the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP), also known as the Golden Quadrilateral and North-South & East-West Corridors, respectively, were developed using these models. Phase III onwards, the government has decided to take up construction on the BoT (toll) basis. The public-private partnership (PPP) envisages build, operate and transfer and toll and annuity models.

In case of toll, a private concessionaire is entitled to collect revenues over the concession period, while in annuity, a private player earns in the form of half-yearly payment from the government. A model concession agreement laying bidding guidelines for BoT (toll) projects was also introduced in 2007.

Hinting at a likely re-look at the various models of highways development, Nath said it was necessary to move towards a framework, which is workable and practical for implementing and utilising the budgets.

We have to look at workable models. There is no use having a PPP and not having a bid. There is no use having platforms that do not work. We have to have roads and we have to see that we are using platforms and vehicles that translate into work on the ground. It has to be seen that how we can transparently work so that we can measure the kilometres on the ground rather then measuring things by plans.

On the transportation side, Nath said the old regulatory framework related to transportation like multiple permits have to be looked into in a new way.