Monday, June 26, 2006

Bangalore is getting Banglored!

Bangalore is getting Banglored!
Rajendra Misra; Founder & Managing Trustee, SAHYOG – Indian Council for Public Private Partnership)
Writing is on the wall. It took 20 years for Bangalore to establish its brand, but it will take just 5 years to loose it.

The Indian Express

Bangalored - The first time I saw this word was about 4 years ago while browsing through a magazine popular with IT folks in Bay Area of USA. Casual chat with friends revealed that when IT professionals in US lost their jobs due to down-sizing and outsourcing, they said, "They have been Banglored (fired)", which implies that their job has gone to Bangalore (India)."

Bangalore is about to face similar situation, where jobs will move to other cities and countries due to severe infrastructure inadequacies. Brand Bangalore is taking a hit

In the last several months, international media ran several stories on poor and deteriorating infrastructure of Bangalore but this bad publicity has not helped 'Brand Bangalore' in anyway. Business visitors to Bangalore want only one favour - 'a hotel room, closest to the office so that they can avoid potholed roads and traffic jams'.

As a result, several companies have been forced to provide accommodation to its visitors with-in the campus. This cannot go on for too long. And a few things that would haunt all these visitors to India's IT capital is the long-hours spent in traffic jams and ofcourse the back pain caused by potholed roads. This impression, by all probability, passes on to the decision makers in their organisations, thus influencing their plans to shift or expand their operations in Bangalore.

Today, it is a well-known fact that most of the companies are thinking beyond Bangalore. Few high profile events of recent past are indicative of the trend - fab project went to Hyderabad and so did President Bush. Nokia and Flextronics chose Chennai for their manufacturing facilities.

Writing is one the wall. It took 20 years for Bangalore to establish its brand, but it will take just 5 years to loose it. While every component of infrastructure is in urgent need of repair and expansion - roads, drains and traffic management need urgent attention. Patch work and piecemeal approach will not help. We need a comprehensive overhaul and capacity addition. New government has made some announcements but they are not addressing the root cause. Beating a dead horse will not win you the race.

Our municipal bodies are not geared for creation and maintenance of massive infrastructure needs of a mega city like Bangalore. Their inability to raise financial resources by way of taxes, grants and borrowing from multilateral funding institutions is hampering the growth of infrastructure.

As far as planning, execution and monitoring are concerned, they rely on borrowed engineering and administrative resources from other government departments, which at best is a stop-gap arrangement. Last but not the least, push and pulls of elected democracy render decision making slow and inefficient.

In the process we are wasting huge sums of public money, which will wash down the drains during every monsoon. Given the above inadequacies and inefficiencies, we need to ask ourselves - Are our municipal bodies capable of delivering quality infrastructure to the citizens of Bangalore?

We need to have a fresh look, think out-of-the-box. One solution could be to create an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle - used for funding infrastructure construction), which is responsible for planning, design, finance, execution and maintenance of all major roads, flyovers and drains in the city.

This SPV should be an autonomous body based on a PPP model and should be headed by an efficient and capable bureaucrats. SPV should be the apex decision-making body as far as infrastructure needs of Greater Bangalore are concerned.

SPV should be funded from taxes raised by municipal bodies, state and Central government grants, viability gap funding from JNNURM scheme, borrowing from multilateral lending institutions and any other means such as DeBOOT etc. PPP nature of SPV and access to high quality resources will ensure that infrastructure planning and execution are done in consultation with all stakeholders, both public and private to meet current and future needs of the city. People will have more trust and faith in the SPV given its PPP nature.

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