India to monetize $81 billion worth assets to boost infra spending

New Delhi: India plans to monetize $81 billion worth of state assets over the next four years under a program announced earlier in the 2021/2022 budget to boost infrastructure spending and spur economic growth in Asia’s third biggest economy, reported Reuters.

The Indian government aims to hand already built assets such as gas pipelines, roads, railway stations and warehousing facilities among others to the private sector to operate on a long-term lease, Amitabh Kant, chief executive of NITI Aayog, told a news conference on Monday.

“The strategic objective of the program is to unlock the value of investments in brownfield public sector assets by tapping institutional and long-term patient capital which can thereafter be leveraged for further public investments.”

The government plans to garner 1.6 trillion rupees from the road sector, 1.52 trillion rupees from railway assets, 452 billion from power transmission lines, 398.32 billion from natural gas assets and 351 billion rupees from telecommunications projects.

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“This is big and bold,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, non-executive chairman of Feedback Infra Group, a private infrastructure services company. He said the program’s scale and coverage is much wider than his expectation but will need an overhaul of the private-public partnership system.

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the program would give an impetus to economic growth.

She also rebutted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the National Monetization Pipeline (NMP), arguing that the government will not give away ownership of assets under the plan and they will be mandatorily handed back to the government.

On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bringing the process of selling the “crown jewel” assets built by his party in the last 70 years.

He also contended that the Congress is not opposing the privatization process but “the entire NMP is designed to create a monopoly”.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters along with former Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram, Gandhi had said: “The Prime Minister and the BJP said that the Congress had done nothing in the last 70 years. There is a list here of all the assets that the Congress has helped build using public money.”

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