15th Skoch Summit - Infrastructure & Governance, 
17th - 18th October 2007, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

15th Skoch Summit

15th Skoch Summit 2007 India @ Work
Infrastructure & Governance

17th - 18th October 2007,  India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India 




Infrastructure & Governance

As the Indian economy has moved into a higher growth trajectory, post-1991 reforms, individual incomes have increased and people’s expectations have also gone up vis-à-vis the government. That apart, a privatized option is also now available. People’s expectations have changed from the roti, kapda, makan (food, clothing and shelter) days to bijli, sadak and pani (power, roads and water), emphasizing the shift towards physical and social infrastructure. While governance impacts all public services and also includes internal systemic reforms within the government, the visible interface between citizens and the government is at the level of physical and social infrastructure. There are great variations within India about adequacy of such service delivery. The issue isn’t one of resources, since enough monetary resources exist. The issue is more one of improving transparency and accountability of public expenditure, improving its efficiency through better regulation, governance and technology induction and linking expenditure to actual improvement in outcomes.

India spends too little on infrastructure, perhaps around 3.5% of GDP. For >9% growth rates, expenditure on physical infrastructure should be at least 10% of GDP. This necessitates participation of private sector either as contractors to the government or as entrepreneurs carrying the resultant risks and rewards directly. Estimates about investments into infrastructure vary from $350-$475 billion over the next few years. This opens up never before opportunities for practically all sectors of the economy. E.g. at 2% of the investments, the additional market for Information Technology industry in infrastructure sector is up-to $9.5 billion in the same time period. Applications could vary from e-Tolling of highways, ensuring faster clearance of passengers and flights at airports to managing transmission and distribution losses and project management kind of issues.

Infrastructure means different things and what works for telecom, won’t work for power. Parts of infrastructure are under the purview of the Centre, parts are under the States and parts are increasingly local body subjects. Indeed, even for governance, the interface between the citizen and the State is often at the level of the local body. Therefore, some infrastructure areas need to be pinned down, for instance, roads (not just the National Highway Development Program, but feeder roads too), railways, telecom and so on. Instead of discussions at general levels, one needs to be specific, allowing for detailed discussions on appropriate user charges; regulation, reforms and technology induction; targeting of subsidies and possibilities of Public Private Partnership (PPP), since PPPs can also take on many different forms.

Similarly, word governance means different things to different people, since it is not only about the act of governing performed by the three organs of government (executive, judiciary and legislature), but also about decision-making processes, so that citizens are also involved. Conceptually, one can think about relationships between the government and individual citizens or between the government and individual enterprises (which can also be small) as fitting into the overall framework of governance. E-governance, decentralization and the overall involvement of society, in this framework, serves as a way to make this process of governance more transparent, accessible, and even open to correction. E.g. the role it can play in rejuvenating the district planning process and bring in a grassroots planning discipline. E-governance then is not merely a tool to help improve governance but also is a necessary infrastructure for delivering better governance and services. National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) provides a framework for making this happen. 

The thrust of the conference was discussions on how better governance, facilitated through decentralization and e-governance, can be used to improve these infrastructure services. Apart from examining the softer issues of policy and its implementation; we also  figured out just where the bottlenecks in infrastructure growth lie and can applying technology and process changes help overcome these hurdles and improve governance.