Battle of PMs: Modi scores in time management, Manmohan in controlling cost of telecom projects

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Updated: September 20, 2019 7:56 PM

Modi vs Manmohan: PM Modi has often blamed UPA for the slow pace of implementation of government projects.

UPA vs NDA, Modi vs Manmohan, P Chidambaram, Economy, Arun Jaitley, Nirmala Sitharaman, GDP Growth, TelecomFormer PM Manmohan Singh (L) and PM Modi. (File Photo).

UPA vs NDA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often lamented the slow pace of implementation of central government projects during the last 10 years of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure. In his public speeches, he often criticised the work culture of previous UPA government for delaying, confusing and creating obstacles (Atkana, Bhatkana & Latkana) that resulted in cost and time overruns of central projects. If one looks at the data compiled by ministry statistics and programme implementation about the ongoing central project in in different sectors over the last 15 years, then definitely a large number of telecom projects were behind the schedule during Manmohan Singh’s tenure. In March 2011, 35 of total 41 projects, 85% of the total, were behind the schedule. However, the total cost overrun was just Rs 511 crore in the year, which was highest during the 10-year rule of Manmohan Singh. While during PM Modi’s tenure, 6 of total 9 telecom projects were on schedule in March 2018, but the cost overrun was over Rs 11,000 crore involving just two projects that reported cost overruns in the year.

The latest data compiled from the information available with the ministry of statistics and programme implementation provides detailed information about the time and cost overruns of the central government projects over the last 15 years. In the telecommunication sector, there was not a single project during the tenures of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his predecessor Manmohan Singh that was ahead of schedule.

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The data also reveals that the total number of central government projects declined sharply during Prime Minister Modi’s tenure, from 41 in March 2014 to just 2 projects in March 2016 then again going up to 9 projects in March 2018.

It is true that the number of delayed projects was very high during the first tenure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when it went up from just 5 of total 25 projects being behind the schedule in March 2005 to 35 of total 40 projects being delayed in 2010. It means, nearly 88% of the central government’s projects in the telecom sector were running behind the schedule in March 2010.

Though the number of delayed telecom projects was extremely high during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s first tenure. However, he was able to contain the situation in the next three years. The total number of delayed projects declined from 35 in 2010 to just 12 next year then eventually declining to just 4 projects in March 2014.

Despite frequent time overruns, the cost overrun of central government’s telecom projects was not little over Rs 500 crore in any year during the entire tenure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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The total number of telecom projects also declined sharply after 2014, from 10 projects in March 2014 to just 4 projects next year. And then to just 2 and 3 projects in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In March 2018, the Union government had just 9 telecom projects against the peak of 41 projects in 2010.

But the good thing is that the number of on-schedule projects as a percent of total projects improved significantly during PM Modi’s tenure. According to the latest information, 6 of the total 9 telecom projects were on schedule in March 2018.

However, it also has a downside. The cost overrun, the difference between the original cost and the latest anticipated cost, has sharply gone up during PM Modi’s tenure. It has gone up to Rs 11,330 crore in March 2018, involving just two projects that reported cost overruns in the year.

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The government initially estimated that it will require Rs 13,752 crore to complete these two projects but this estimate jumped to over Rs 25,000 crore in March 2018, an increase of over Rs 11,000 crore.

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