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Construction : Roads Highways & Bridges | March 2018 | Source : Infrastructure Today

Accelerating Infrastructure Projects

In the last two decades, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Its extensive infrastructure needs are well known.

Over the past 10 years, India has successfully executed projects such as the Golden Quadrilateral road programme and port expansion projects in the country. The government has also committed massive investments of close to US$ 500 billion in the infrastructure sector in the Eleventh Plan period (2008v2012). This plan follows several progressive initiatives taken in recent years, including the Electricity Act 2003, the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), the National Maritime Development Programme (NMDP) and Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs). However, much more needs to be done to accelerate infrastructure development in India. India's rapid economic growth over the last decade has placed tremendous stress on its limited infrastructure. The sector has received growing attention from the government and the public, bringing shortage of infrastructure to the fore. Fulfilling India's aggressive economic growth aspirations would be seriously challenged due to this shortage. The country needs to urgently accelerate the conceptualisation and implementation of all its infrastructure development plans to enable sustained growth. 

Infrastructure sector is a key driver of economic growth, but time and cost overruns threaten to limit its potential in achieving the desired growth and efficient capital expenditure. According to the KPMG-PMI report, ineffective project planning and project monitoring are rated as significant risks with maximum impact on project delivery. The report highlights that poor programme management also results in ineffective coordination between projects, leading to schedule delays, further accelerating time and cost overruns. Hence, it is imperative for companies to have effective project management and risk management practices in place. Project Management Office (PMO) is important for independent reporting and ensuring project management excellence. The sector is likely to have a shortage of around 3 million project professionals by 2022. Shortage of project managers with the requisite skill sets has emerged as a major cause for concern in the infrastructure sector. Hence, formulising project management training for professionals is important to counter the shortage and handle infrastructure projects efficiently.

With increasing number of projects being planned, there will be a need for more project professionals to implement smooth execution. This prediction is further reinforced by the KPMG-PMI, -Study on project schedule and cost overruns v Expedite infrastructure projects survey,' which reveals that by 2022, Indian infrastructure sector is likely to have a shortage of around three million project professionals including project managers, civil engineers, planners, surveyors, safety professionals, etc.

Project management is essential for India's growth story and we believe, the way forward is for the industry and academia to work in tandem on this course to reach the country's goal of being ranked as an economic superpower and a developed nation.

Though organisations are realising the growing need for structured project management, many are looking at short-term training programmes to enhance the skills of their project teams. However, the situation warrants a more serious approach.

India today needs the public and private sectors to manage its infrastructure projects on time and within budget, which in turn will facilitate the development of other sectors. Indian infrastructure sector needs to rise above the challenges and prepare for a stronger economy and a brighter future. Project management is that transformational tool. The industry needs to embrace newer methods, adopt best practices from other sectors, build transparent relationships with all the stakeholders and employ sustainable policies for long-term benefit.

Government departments and industries, like infrastructure, need to focus on project management so that they can contribute significantly to the national gross domestic product (GDP). In order to curb issues arising at the grassroots level, the involvement of stakeholders, including government bodies, academicians, students and corporates is vital. This would not only bring in awareness on project management but also ensure future readiness.

In the absence of a professional project management approach, the infrastructure projects will struggle their way for success. Various infrastructure projects have been delayed or pending in India and others countries across the world due to lack of professional approach, logic and strategy not being properly formulated and dependencies not being adequately envisioned. Conversely, projects which have been professionally managed have benefited with scientific approach, risk management techniques and better contingency planning.

Besides staying tuned to the current scenario, the sector can adhere to the following recommendations for successful project deliveries, adding value to the overall process.

Recommendations - Next steps
We have come up with 10 recommendations for the government, policy makers and project owners to help in clearing the bottlenecks for infrastructure projects and improving project delivery in the country.

1)    Set up a single window clearance mechanism to simplify the regulatory approval process: To expedite infrastructure projects, there is a need to develop an effective single window clearance mechanism. This facilitates and streamlines interaction with different regulatory authorities and provides a single point of contact for all permissions and approvals necessary for infrastructure projects.
2)    Set up a three-tier project/programme management office (PMO) structure in the country to monitor and remove bottlenecks from infrastructure projects: There is a need to set up a three-tier project management office in the country. The PMO would monitor and provide oversights at the national level. All projects above a certain threshold limit, say over Rs 100 crore, or projects of national importance, would fall under this structure.
3)    Develop a robust process for fast and efficient dispute resolution: In India, dispute resolution through the judiciary is generally a tedious, lengthy process and may take several years to resolve. A few initiatives that could improve the dispute resolution process in India are strengthening existing arbitration laws, encouraging institutional arbitration and creating  a dispute resolution board.
4)    Institutionalise project management training for professionals: Lack of project management skills in professionals working on infrastructure projects impacts efficient project delivery. Although rich industry experience helps in gaining insights, in today's rapidly changing world and evolving technology, there is a need to impart formal training to project managers and regularly update their skills.
5)    Reform India's vocational education and training programme to create a large pool of employable workforce: To create readily-employable labour force, both the government and industry need to come together and develop a mechanism to impart training and encourage skill development.
The government has set up Project Monitoring Groups (PMGs) to assist in the clearance of projects. The efforts here are laudable. It is equally important for the government to also monitor and assist in project execution. The benefits to the economy and country accrue only when the projects are executed and desired outcomes are realised. 

To conclude, the country has taken a leap towards setting itself on a growth trajectory by means of various initiatives. Launch of pet projects like Make in India, Digital India and Smart Cities by our honourable Prime Minister, has opened doors for foreign direct investments (FDIs) and PPP models to work in tandem with corporate India. While these are attempts at creating a better India, to sustain the pace and ensure successful execution of these initiatives, it is essential that standard processes for planning, execution and monitoring are put in place with project management playing a vital role. Realising the necessity of the present scenario, PMI in association with FICCI has identified critical issues which need to be addressed to reduce the gap between the as-is and to-be states to create a conducive environment for projects like Make in India to succeed.

Raj Kalady, Managing Director, Project Management Institute
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