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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mile by Mile, India Builds Competitive Infrastructure

Amy Waldman notes that in a span of less than 15 years, capitalism and globalization have convulsed India at an unprecedented rate of change. The Indian government has begun a 15-year project to widen and pave some 40,000 miles of narrow, decrepit national highways, with the first leg, to be largely complete by next year( this leg of the project has suffered delays). It amounts to the most ambitious infrastructure project in the last fifty years. She believes that these effort echo the United States' construction of its national highway system in the 1920's and 1950's & notes that these arteries paved across America fueled commerce and development, fed a nation's auto obsession and created suburbs. They also displaced communities and helped sap mass transit and deplete inner cities. For India, already one of the world's fastest-growing economies and most rapidly evolving societies, the results may be as radical. This is highly needed now as indian competitiveness is still suspect in the eyes of experts.
The idea behind the highway is about grafting Western notions of speed and efficiency onto a civilization that has always taken the long view. On every infrastructure front, India has fallen well behind China, although debate over whether the blame for that lies with democracy or just with India's short practice of it is an enduring Indian pastime. Having invested more than 10 times as much as India since the mid-1990's, China has 15 times the expressway length. See this related note here. She believes that the new highway is certain to jump-start India's competitiveness, given that its dismal infrastructure helped keep it behind the economic success stories of its rivals. Infrastructure projects needs to be executed with ruthless efficiency, the goal should be setting new benchmarks and create a world class infrastructure and industry ecosystem in the process. As Dan Fineman once said, China has won the sprint but India shall win the marathon. But India has a long way to go. These infrastructure developments are highly needed in lot more numbers as India is on the cusp of something big.

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