Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has it all worked out. An infrastructure build-out with an airport, a trans-harbour link to link Mumbai and New Mumbai, a coastal road, more metros, lots of commercial space and a clutch of urban centres, all of which will pave the way for turning Mumbai into a global financial services hub. The CM is looking at R1 lakh crore worth of projects immediately but says it could be a lot more given the pace at which projects are pouring in. Funding these projects doesn’t appear to be a stumbling block either with the CM saying he has already lined up R50,000 crore for 72 km of metro rail from Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). And as for timelines, Fadnavis hopes to complete most of the projects in a span of five years. He is confident of getting clearances for the coastal road in a few months.
While the blueprint for Mumbai Next may appear ambitious, it might not really be that hard to deliver. One reason Mumbai’s infrastructure is in shambles and very few projects have taken off over the last decade is because the coalition partners that ruled the state were never able to agree on major issues. The BJP, however, is well in control—the Shiv Sena is a minor partner—and therefore, will have a firmer grip on the various institutions; as Fadnavis has said there is a war-room in the CM’s office to take care of both collisions and overlaps between the numerous organisations that are going to work together to roll out the projects. Also, the BJP’s general philosophy of making it easier to do business and keeping bureaucratic interference to the minimum should help the state government get whatever assistance it needs from the Centre.
Once it becomes clear to investors that the environment is a friendly one, they should be comfortable putting their money to work in Mumbai. As the CM has pointed out, there are enough Japanese and Chinese surpluses that can be attracted to India and if the investors are convinced the state means business, they would look to deploy their resources here. Indeed, if there are no cost and time overruns, projects can be viable; but in the past too much has gone wrong with infrastructure ventures in the country for any lender to be completely sanguine. While offering TDR or a transfer of development rights to help acquire land in the city seems like a good idea, one must wait to see how it works out. The state government, therefore, needs to tread carefully, choosing the right partners, and processes. Else, foreign investors will be soon disillusioned and there aren’t many local financiers to bridge the gap going by the country’s sad history of PPP in many large projects.