Business, Finance & Economics

India: Singh calls for $1 trillion in infrastructure investments "at any cost"

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his newly inducted cabinet that the government's target of $1 trillion investments in infrastructure over the next five years “must be met at any cost" -- implying that neither concerns about corruption or the environment should be allowed to slow the Indian juggernaut any longer.

“Infrastructure is at the top of our agenda and will require particular attention and effort at multiple levels across the government,” Singh said in opening remarks before the first meeting of his entire council of ministers since the United Progressive Alliance coalition returned to power in the 2009 elections, India's DNA newspaper reported.

The prime minister listed fuel supply arrangements, security and environmental clearances and financing difficulties among the constraints slowing India's infrastructure investments, the paper said. Meanwhile, the growing gap between demand and supply of energy has emerged as a major roadblock to development.

“As a result, our growth has decelerated, our exports have fallen and our fiscal deficits are expanding,” Singh said.

Earlier this week, Singh's Congress Party, which heads the UPA coalition, reshuffled Singh's cabinet of 77 ministers in what was widely interpreted as a move to bring supporters of heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi into the limelight and oust figures like former oil and gas minister Jaipal Reddy who were seen as blocking industrial projects. (Anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal, among others, has alleged that Reddy was ousted because he opposed initiatives suggested by Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani--India's richest tycoon).

Previously, Jairam Ramesh was shifted out of the environment ministry, where he was seen as blocking industrial projects, and given charge of rural development. In this go-around, he was turfed out altogether.