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The stress is on infrastructure
Source : The Hindu Property Plus Published On : 2009-02-21 City : Kochi

The allocations for flagship programmes in the interim budget will help develop rural and urban infrastructure.

 

The Interim Union Budget presented in Parliament last week is expected to give an impetus to development of rural and urban infrastructure. Work in rural areas is expected to benefit from the higher allocation for the flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. In urban areas, the higher allocation for the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission will help. The seven-year mission is being implemented in cities across the country, including Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

As the impact of the worldwide economic recession unfolds, the housing sector is in focus. Several big-time builders in metros slash prices, while smaller cities such as Kochi see fewer new projects.

The building industry has generated massive employment opportunities and reviving the sector is of great importance in tiding over the downturn.

The building industry, says a May 2007 State government draft of the Housing and Habitat Policy, generates employment for both skilled and unskilled labour.

The industry has been the largest employment generator after agriculture. “The high potential to create around 200 man years of employment for a Rs.1-crore investment in housing from direct construction and indirect activities … should be fully harnessed,” the report says.

The economic scene may have changed significantly since the draft was drawn up. But the industry still holds the potential to help revive the economy.

It is in this light that the budget announcement on the JNNURM made by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who holds charge of the Finance portfolio, should be seen.

The budget has earmarked Rs.11, 842 crore for the mission, up from Rs.10, 447 crore in 2008-09.

The higher allocation should encourage city administrators, including those in Kochi, says a senior Planning official here.

               
Full steam ahead

Though unrelated to the budget, projects in Kochi under the mission have gone full steam ahead. In February, eight road projects and three railway over-bridges were included and Rs.138 crore was sanctioned. But the mission rejected the proposals for the over-bridges on the ground that they did not comply with the National Urban Transport Policy.

The road projects being taken up include Stadium Link Road, western extension of Sahodaran Ayyappan Road, the Goshree-Mamangalam road, the Thammanam-Pulleppady road, Chilavannur Bund Road and the Edappally-High Court road.

The Center has given added emphasis to the mission as part of efforts to beat recession. It had made available and additional Rs.4, 200 crore for it even in 2008-09.

Mr. Mukherjee said in his presentation: “Under Jawaharlal National Urban Renewal Mission, 386 projects amounting to Rs.39, 000 crore have been sanctioned as of December 31, 2008.”

Apart from this, the stimulus packages announced by the government in December and January had sought to give the housing sector a big boost.

The interest concession on loans up to Rs.20 lakh has been a help, though reports say that job losses and pay cuts in the information technology and information technology enabled services sectors make banks less willing to lend.

The budget has not much to offer to the steel and cement industries. Cement prices came down marginally in December last year when the government cut the excise duty across the board.

Building on these, the building and infrastructure industry can look forward to further measures after the Lok Sabha elections.

As of any other industry, the building industry’s wish list can be long. For example, the building industry is now looking to provide low-cost housing, or affordable housing, aimed at the lower income groups.

A senior official of a finance company says that 2009 can be the year when builders can take a close look at this section.

K.A. MARTIN

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