The article “Building fast and cheap” (August 4) rightly focuses on infrastructure projects for which an astronomical outlay of Rs 31 lakh crore has been estimated. Imagine the colossal loss to society caused by deficiencies in decision-making and implementation. The concluding sentence of the article says it all. In our country, not only is there a lack of public participation in the decision-making process, but there is very little critical media focus and analysis on infrastructure projects. Even the national auditor is handicapped and has been seeking an increase in his powers since special purpose vehicles created for infrastructure management are excluded from his audit purview.
A recent European study of 300 mega projects in 30 countries zeroes in on transparency, performance specifications, explicit formulation of regulatory regime and risk capital. It notes that the most important issue in terms of accountability is whether or not to invest in a mega project. It adds that the staff and directors “must be conversant with the implications of performance management and the notions of risk and accountability” and concludes that “if the four instruments of accountability are satisfied, mega project development will do the job and do it well”. Britain is sending its officers to Said Business School to learn how to interact with the private sector; there is little public information on how the Indian government is honing the skills of its civil servants.
Finally, I’d like to share an observation about the projects closer home for a better understanding of the mega project management paradox. The Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour link in Mumbai was planned earlier as a road-cum-rail bridge. Now the government is proceeding only with the road bridge. A rail bridge would have significantly reduced the travel time from Panvel to CST. Also, when the state’s chief minister and the Railway Board convened a meeting recently to discuss Mumbai-related infrastructure projects, of the five MPs, only two participated.
S Subramanyan, Navi Mumbai
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