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Maharashtra eyes $16 billion push to revamp infrastructure

Fadnavis said he had accelerated the infrastructure plans, in part due to direct intervention from the Central government.

Reuters

Updated:July 11, 2015, 11:32 AM IST
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Maharashtra eyes $16 billion push to revamp infrastructure
Fadnavis said he had accelerated the infrastructure plans, in part due to direct intervention from the Central government.

Mumbai: India's wealthiest state plans to spend almost $16 billion over five to six years on a revamp of key infrastructure, reviving long-dormant projects including a Mumbai airport, a port and a key coastal road, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said.

Seeking to accelerate economic growth, government has prioritised the kick-starting of infrastructure projects that had gathered dust, either because of an obstructive bureaucracy, a lack of private sector interest or in some cases, lengthy litigation.

Congested Mumbai, the biggest city in Maharashtra and India's financial capital, is home to some of the most delayed projects in the country. But the state says reviving them is a priority, as it actively courts investment to create much-needed jobs. Half of its population is under 25.

"It should not have waited so long. It is late. But now we will try to catch up," Fadnavis said in an interview at his official residence, in leafy south Mumbai.

Fadnavis, who in 2014 became the first member of the Bharatiya Janata Party to run the state, said he had accelerated the infrastructure plans, in part due to direct intervention from the Central government.

That includes, for example, for the new Mumbai airport, which is scheduled to see its first flight in 2019.

"In four months, we got all eight clearances," he said, adding that a bidder for the project would be chosen by the end of the summer.

The airport is a crucial part of efforts to push Mumbai development away from the sea, alleviating a metropolitan area estimated to be home to more than 20 million and whose roads and public transport are already choked.

That project will include a road bridge, on the drawing board for more than four decades and taken up by the media as a case study in infrastructure delays and the impact of poor planning -- as well as a new city on a 600 square km plot around the airport, the size of the current city of Mumbai.

The broader infrastructure plan will also include a new port outside Mumbai, reviving a project first mooted in 1996.

Fadnavis has travelled frequently over the last six months on a high profile campaign to attract big investors to Maharashtra, from Mercedes Benz to Foxconn, manufacturer of the Apple iPhone.

He said the state was encouraging companies -- from cars to technology -- to come and to bring their suppliers.

"We are importing almost all hardware -- even in mobiles. Only 7 percent of mobiles are made in India, even though we are one of the largest markets," he said, adding one reason was the lack of a supplier network.

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