A towering monument to the India road not taken

What aspect does the strong aspect of man have? In India, there are 25,000 tons of steel, 3,550 tons of bronze and 210,000 cubic meters of cement and cement – which are built around the world for a cost of about $ 400 million.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Statue of Unity in his state of Gujarat. The resemblance is of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a leader of the independence movement known as "Ironman of India", who died in 1950. At 182 meters (597 feet), it is the tallest structure in the world – twice the height of the statue of Liberty and over 40 percent higher than the Buddha of the Chinese Spring Temple.

At first glance, this ostentatious display of nationalism comes at the expense of other priorities. The cost was equivalent to about 90% of the annual central government budget for skills development and the ministry of entrepreneurship; double that of the Ministry of Navigation; almost as much as the planned spending of the biotech department; and about 90% of the spending budget for the development of roads and bridges.

The amount could have irrigated 40,000 hectares of land, while all that cement and cement could have been used to pave decrepit roads that cause thousands of deaths each year.

For all the things the statue did not do, it is symbolic of the Modi government's ability to push towards populist causes – even those that move villages, mills and sugar cane growers – while the most urgent needs are not addressed. Larsen & Toubro Ltd., the largest construction company in India, took less than three years to erect the statue. In comparison, China needed 11 years to build its Buddha.

The state-backed companies have paid out funds through their corporate social responsibility departments to support the project, with the gas giant GAIL India Ltd. and Oil India Ltd. each putting about 250 million rupees ($ 3.4 millions).

The efficiency of government machinery is in stark contrast to the modus operandi of India when it comes to infrastructure. Road projects have been blocked for years because of the government's failure to help finance them. In recent months, companies such as Larsen and Toubro and IDFC Ltd. have curbed their spending on road financing. Of the 104 projects awarded, more than half do not have enough money.

A public-private partnership metro project in the city of Hyderabad was "put in place against enormous odds", Shailesh Pathak, CEO of L & T Infrastructure Development Projects, complained on Twitter in September, adding that the company he would bid for additional PPP subway contracts.

A clogged financial system and the inability of banks to aggressively lend their accounts in part due to backlog. The completion of the infrastructure project by the government and the private sector in the second fiscal quarter decreased by more than 40 percent compared to the previous year.

"This monument will not only be a mute memorial like the rest, but a functional and functional tribute to the purpose," says the Statue of Unity website, promising that it will stimulate all kinds of socio-economic development. This can be optimistic, since an entry ticket costs as much as an unskilled worker in Delhi earns in one day.

However, at least it is finished. India's infrastructure could use a dose of the armored resolve that carried out this project.

To contact the author of this story: Anjani Trivedi on atrivedi39@bloomberg.net

To contact the publisher responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker on mbrooker1@bloomberg.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist who deals with industrial companies in Asia. He previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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