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NITI Aayog organises South Asian Regional Conference on Urban Infrastructure

The South Asian Regional Conference on “Urban Infrastructure: New Approaches to Public and Private Partnerships and Municipal Finance Innovations” began on November in New Delhi. The main objective of the conference is to discuss the key issues, perspectives and the way forward in the Urban Infrastructure.

Nov 16, 2018 11:55 IST
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The South Asian Regional Conference on “Urban Infrastructure: New Approaches to Public and Private Partnerships and Municipal Finance Innovations” began on November 15, 2018 in New Delhi.

The two-day conference is being organised by NITI Aayog, the premier think tank of the Union Government in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In the inaugural address, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant emphasised upon the need to ensure adequate return on investments in infrastructure through properly structured Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and de-risking of projects. He said that it is required to evolve unique models and systems of urban planning that are creative, innovative and sustainable and suited for South Asian countries.

Objective

The main objective of the conference is to discuss the key issues, perspectives and the way forward in the Urban Infrastructure.

It aims to review overall issues and assess the sustainability of PPPs and urban finance in South Asia, specifically India, while broadening the knowledge base and engaging on international best practices.

Key Highlights

The South Asian regional conference is a first of its kind and it will see participation from across the South Asian region including leaders from the government, industry, research organisations, academia, think tanks and civil society.

The main components of the conference include keynote and breakout sessions, panel discussions, presentation and a variety of stakeholder consultations.

During the conference, emphasis was laid on the need to decentralise urbanisation, with porous boundaries between urban and rural areas acting as the key to sustainable urbanisation.

The future areas of growth and development were identified to be infrastructure and digitalised delivery of goods and services.

Further, considering the quantum deficit in infrastructure implementation in current times with regard to demand, it has become extremely imperative to focus on newer means of implementing and financing urban infrastructure.

Background

In India alone, until 2040, estimated investments of around $4.5 trillion are required in the infrastructure space.     

With respect to urban needs, the population in South Asia is expected to grow by around 250 million till 2030, while that in India is expected to reach around 590 million during the same period.

There are an estimated 98 million people who reside in the slums of Indian cities and are disproportionately deprived of access to basic services and infrastructure. These gaps need to be addressed to enable cities to grow equitably in an environmentally responsible way.

The countries need to explore innovative models to implement infrastructure projects. While public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been one such option that enables governments to optimally share the risks associated with a project’s life cycle, however, for making government procurement more dynamic, it is imperative to focus on wider options.

Further, to implement urban infrastructure in India, a deeper deliberation is required on the means of democratising the governance at the city level with a view towards providing greater operational and fiscal autonomy to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

These challenges and the emerging opportunities necessitate focusing on the institutional environment to improve the delivery of sustainable urban infrastructure and services and evaluating alternatives for long term and predictable financing.

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