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Revised Guidelines and Standards for Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles: An Analysis

To promote e-mobility in India, the Ministry of Power, on 14th January 2022, introduced the revised consolidated Guidelines & Standards for Charging Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles (hereinafter, the Guidelines).[1] The Guidelines play a pertinent role in facilitating the e-mobility transition in India by increasing the affordability, accessibility, and reliability of the charging infrastructure. These guidelines are comprehensive as they deal with issues ranging from public charging stations to the tariff for the supply of electricity.[2] This article aims to study the provisions under the recent Guidelines, analyse the same, and delve into the suggestions for their effective implementation.

Exploring the Contours of the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Guidelines

 

The Guidelines allow individuals to charge the Electric Vehicles (hereinafter, “EV”) at their residences and places of work with the help of their existing electricity connections.[3]  A private entity is free to set up a public charging station till the time it complies with the standards and protocols laid down by the Ministry of Power, Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Central Electricity Authority (CEA) from time to time.

The government, through the new Guidelines, aims to establish a grid of 3x3km for the EVs.[4] On the highways, a charging station would be available within every twenty-five kilometres. These charging stations would be present on both sides of the highways. To facilitate this goal, the government may resort to the installation of public charging stations at the existing outlets of the oil marketing companies.[5] It is interesting to note that the Guidelines also target heavy-duty EVs such as trucks and buses. A separate list of compliances, such as the requirement of at least two chargers of a minimum 100 kW (with 200-1000 V) each, has been specified for the long-distance and heavy-duty EVs.[6]

Under the Guidelines, the public charging stations can apply for electricity connection and the distribution licensee would provide the same as per the timelines provided under the Electricity (Rights of the Consumers) Rules, 2020.[7]  The public charging stations set up in metro cities would be able to have connectivity within the seven days of applying.[8] The deadline extends to 15 days in the case of other municipal areas and 30 days in rural areas. The Guidelines also present the option of procuring power from any power generating company through open access.

To provide for advanced remote or online booking of charging slots, it is necessary for the public charging station to have a tie-up with at least a single network service provider. This would allow the EV owners to have the requisite information pertaining to various aspects such as a number of the installed and available chargers, location, and applicable service charges. While acknowledging that few public charging stations would be set up for internal use of an entity, the Guidelines additionally mention that no network service provider tie-ups are needed in that instance.

One of the key features of these Guidelines is that they provide for the single part tariff for the electric supply to the public charging stations, which would not extend the average cost of the supply until March 31st, 2025.[9] A separate meeting arrangement would be provided for the public charging stations, as opposed to the domestic charging, so as to ensure that the consumption is recorded and billed in line with the applicable tariffs. To further reduce the cost, the government has provided electricity at concessional rates along with the subsidies to set up the Public Charging Stations. Moreover, the state governments would be fixing the ceiling of service charges, which are to be levied on these charging stations.[10]  The Guidelines, inter alia, provide that the DISCOMs may leverage on the funding from the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme for the augmentation of the general upstream network, which is necessitated due to the upcoming charging infrastructure. It specifies that the “cost of such works carried out by DISCOMs with the financial assistance from the Government of India under the revamped scheme should not be charged from the consumers for the Public Charging Stations for EVs.”[11]

The recent guidelines play an instrumental role in ensuring the process of charging is made affordable for EV users. The public charging stations would be set up on a revenue-sharing basis at the fixed rate of Rs 1/kWh.[12] More and more public charging systems would be set up by using the land available with the government and private entities.

It is pertinent to note that a phased manner would be followed with respect to the rolling out process. Phase I, which ranges from the first to third year, would target all the megacities having a population of over four million. In this phase, all the existing expressways and important highways linked with the above megacities would also be included. Thereafter, under the second phase (which would range from the third to the fifth year) would cover certain big cities, state capitals, and headquarters of the Union territories.[13]

Moreover, these Guidelines are made technology agnostic because they provide for prevailing international charging standards available in the market as well as new Indian charging standards.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency would be the central nodal agency for the rollout of the EV public charging infrastructure.[14] Moreover, every state government can have its own nodal agency for the purposes of setting up the requisite infrastructure.

 

Requisites of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

 

The Guidelines can be perceived as a massive step forward to promote the adoption of EVs in India by increasing accessibility and affordability. They should be lauded for introducing a reliable economically viable and coordinated system to regulate the charging of such vehicles. They further tend to address the long-existing lacunae, which persisted with respect to the applicable tariffs.

In India, one of the reasons as to why the adoption of EVs has been quite staggered is because, according to the data with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (“MORTH”), for 9,47,876 registered cars, only 1028 public charging stations are there.[15] This was observed by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Therefore, from the above figure, it could be clearly observed that the country does not have the necessary infrastructure to cater to the growing demand for EVs. These guidelines have identified the existing problem and provided appropriate solutions for the same. As discussed above, apart from the installation of an adequate number of public charging stations, the individual consumers will also have the option of charging the EVs at their homes or places of work. The Guidelines state that under private charging, the batteries of the privately owned cars are charged through the domestic charging points and the billing is done via the home or domestic metering.  On the other hand, for charging outside the home premises, the power needs to be billed and payment needs to be collected. Moreover, the power drawn from these chargers is regulated from time to time.

The provision of private charging, in addition to public charging, would overall result in consumer welfare as now the private users do not have to rely completely on the government for the charging process. They can bridge the implementation gap by setting up their own charging stations. Further, the government has also been taking the right steps to bring down the price of electric vehicles by providing subsidies. At present, the price of the majority of Electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers are almost equivalent to their petrol counterparts.[16]

India has set the target of meeting 30% EV sales penetration for private cars, 70% for commercial vehicles, 80% for two and three-wheelers, and 40% for buses by 2030.[17] However, earlier this goal seemed unachievable due to the high costs associated with EVs and lack of the required infrastructure for public charging stations. The new Guidelines strive to make certain that the country is back on the track to meet the above-mentioned objective. This has been possible due to the subsidies that have been provided by the government. It is predicted that the sale of the total electric vehicles in India would reach approximately 10 lakh units. This number is equal to the units sold collectively in the last fifteen years.[18] Apart from this, the government has introduced a portal called e-Amrit to make India a more conducive place for the manufacture and adoption of EVs.[19]

Furthermore, the Guidelines aim to strike a balance between accessibility and safety. By allowing private entities to set up charging stations, the government has not only made the charging of EVs more feasible for individuals but has also reduced its burden of being the sole provider of the charging stations.  Annexure 3 lay down a list of requirements to ensure that the safety protocols have been followed[20]

Instrumental Role Played by EV Charging Infrastructure

 

The Guidelines would play an instrumental role in transforming and shaping the future of the use of EVs in India. They have efficiently recognized the existing issues and have formulated promising ways for addressing the same. Not only would they help in promoting energy security, but would also help in the reduction of emissions that are harmful to the environment which is a major concern at the global level. This would enable the country to take a step forward in the direction of its concern to save the environment and sustainable development.

However, the success of these Guidelines entirely depends on their effective implementation. Therefore, both central and state governments shall play a crucial role in its success in introducing a user-friendly EV policy. It is suggested that the Central Government or the Central Nodal Agency should keep a check on the performance of all the States with regards to the Guidelines. It should ensure that the development is taking place in a continuous and coordinated manner. Moreover, since the private individuals and entities for public use are free to set up their own charging stations, measures should be taken to ensure that the safety standards are strictly being met.

References:

[1] https://powermin.gov.in/sites/default/files/webform/notices/Final_Consolidated_EVCI_Guidelines_January_2022_with_ANNEXURES.pdf

[2] https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/power-ministry-revises-norms-for-pro-actively-setting-up-ev-charing-infra-122011500778_1.html

[3] https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/guidelines-and-standards-for-ev-public-charging-stations-released-owners-can-charge-at-home-or-office-too/88941883

[4] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/renewables/what-budget-2022-can-do-to-power-up-ev-charging-scene/articleshow/89069935.cms

[5] https://mercomindia.com/ministry-of-power-guidelines-ev-charging-infrastructure/#:~:text=As%20per%20the%20new%20guidelines%2C%20public%20charging%20stations%20will%20be,30%20days%20in%20rural%20areas.

[6] https://powermin.gov.in/sites/default/files/webform/notices/Final_Consolidated_EVCI_Guidelines_January_2022_with_ANNEXURES.pdf.

[7] https://powermin.gov.in/sites/default/files/uploads/Consumers_Rules_2020.pdf

[8] https://www.news18.com/news/auto/government-allows-ev-owners-to-charge-cars-using-existing-electricity-connections-4666697.html

[9] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/revised-guidelines-for-charging-infrastructure-for-electric-vehicles-issued/article38275645.ece

[10] https://indiaesa.info/resources/ev-101/3924-public-ev-charging-infrastructure-in-india.

[11] https://powermin.gov.in/sites/default/files/webform/notices/Final_Consolidated_EVCI_Guidelines_January_2022_with_ANNEXURES.pdf

[12] https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/owners-of-evs-can-now-charge-them-at-their-residenceoffices-using-their-existing-electricity-connections

[13] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/renewables/govt-land-to-ev-public-charging-stations-through-bidding/articleshow/88917938.cms?from=mdr

[14] https://beeindia.gov.in/content/e-mobility

[15] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-allows-use-of-existing-power-connections-to-charge-evs-101642392095051.html

[16] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-allows-use-of-existing-power-connections-to-charge-evs-101642392095051.html.

[17] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/budget-2022-special-mobility-zones-for-evs-soon-101643699503104.html#:~:text=her%20budget%20speech.-,India%20has%20set%20a%20target%20of%2030%25%20EV%20sales%20penetration,and%20three%2Dwheelers%20by%202030.

[18] https://www.news18.com/news/auto/electric-vehicles-sales-in-india-expected-to-touch-10-lakh-units-in-2022-smev-4630505.html.

[19] https://www.india.gov.in/spotlight/e-amrit-accelerated-e-mobility-revolution-indias-transportation#:~:text=e%2DAMRIT%20is%20a%20one,%2C%20charging%20stations%2C%20business%20requirements.

[20] https://powermin.gov.in/sites/default/files/webform/notices/Final_Consolidated_EVCI_Guidelines_January_2022_with_ANNEXURES.pdf.

Image Credits: Image by Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

The success of these Guidelines entirely depends on their effective implementation. Therefore, both central and state governments shall play a crucial role in its success in introducing a user-friendly EV policy. It is suggested that the Central Government or the Central Nodal Agency should keep a check on the performance of all the States with regards to the Guidelines. It should ensure that the development is taking place in a continuous and coordinated manner.

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Critical Challenges in the Logistics Sector and a Way Forward

The Indian logistics sector has been on a path of steady and robust growth for the past few years, owing to the rising retail and manufacturing ecosystem in the country. According to the notification[1] of the Ministry of Finance, logistics infrastructure includes “Multimodal Logistics Park comprising Inland Container Depot (ICD) with minimum investment of Rs 50 crore and minimum area of 10 acre“. The importance of the logistics industry is not only paramount to maintain the economic ecosystem of the country, but also balance the national and international trade.

Introduction to the Logistics Sector

In practicality, the industry has broadened to include transportation and warehousing, protective packaging, material handling, order processing, marketing, customer service, distribution, value-added services, payment collection, packaging, documentation, customer brokerage facilities, kitting, repair management and reconfiguration and also reverse logistics. Ergo, all activities in the logistics supply chain.

Illustration I: Basic Logistics Supply Chain Process


 

The Importance of the Logistics Sector and the Role of Logistics Lawyers

 

As per the data published by Indian Investment Grid[2], an initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Indian logistics sector was valued at USD 160 billion in 2019, and by the end of 2022, it is expected to be valued at USD 215 Billion.. As per the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, India’s rank has escalated from 54 in 2014 to 44 in 2018. .

Further, in 2021 India’s logistics sector was valued at $160 billion that employed over 22 million people directly. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10 per cent to $215 billion by 2022.[3] Consequently, the logistics industry provides an overall positive scope and opportunity to the Indian economy as well as India’s infrastructure sector.

Since the logistics industry is vast, the role of logistics lawyers and infrastructure lawyers too is dynamic in nature. It ranges from carrying out due diligence, feasibility studies, regulatory approvals, drafting important project and transaction documents, contract management, risk management, regulatory-commercial-financial advice to dispute resolution and handling and advising in litigation.

 

Challenges in the Logistics Sector

 

One of the foremost challenges that the logistics sector faces today arise due to poor infrastructure. Physical infrastructure impacts transportation which facilitates logistics. The country faces challenges in port and roadways infrastructure which directly impacts the transportation of goods. Fuel costs and policy changes directly impact the logistics sector, since the higher the costs of fuel, the higher are the transportation and freight costs which would directly impact the logistic companies and businesses to stay afloat. The economic and socio-political changes in policy would also result in inflation of prices, and in turn, affect costs and disrupt the supply chain. Although the logistics industry has shifted to a more technological friendly environment over the past few years, the industry still faces challenges in safeguarding the documentation, which would be paramount in substantiating claims at the time of arbitrations and litigations. Lack of accurate data at the time of documentation along with several manual processes further aggravate this problem.

The ongoing pandemic has led to several policy changes such as perpetual and partial lockdowns which have directly affected the workers and the labourers of the nation, resulting in delay and/or stoppage of work. This is one of the causes of time overruns and an important cause of disruption in the supply chain. Furthermore, other challenges in the logistic sector involve several compliances that need to be followed in a timely manner, along with maintaining import and export licensing. Other legal issues involve insurance policies, bank guarantees and traversing through taxation compliances and implications.

Some of the challenges faced by the logistics sector are displayed below:

Illustration II: Challenges in the Logistics Infrastructure Industry in India

A vast majority of India’s trade is facilitated by the shipping industry. Furthermore, it is also known that the Government intends to encourage public-private partnerships in the shipping sector and help the local shipping industry with financing ship acquisitions [4]. Therefore, the shipping logistics sector has a promising outlook in the Indian economic ecosystem in the coming future

Commercial disputes in shipping logistics are adjudicated under civil courts with pecuniary jurisdiction and high courts with admiralty jurisdiction. Furthermore, there are established special commercial courts under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 which deal with subject matters of commercial logistics disputes ranging from admiralty and maritime disputes,  issues related to the sale of goods, and those related to import-export, carriage of goods etc. However, prior to approaching the courts, mediation is mandated. Procedurally, along with the pre-institution mediation and settlement, the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 brings along a firm and time-bound approach into the maritime and logistics legal procedures. In the case of M/s SCG Contracts India Pvt. Ltd v. K.S. Chamankar Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. & Ors[5], the importance of the timely process was asserted wherein the Supreme Court held that interim applications for rejection of statement of claims or plaint will not pause the 120-day deadline process. Certain challenges in litigations and disputes also relate to jurisdiction, cause of action and limitation barred suits.

The Indian Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 1925 applies to outward cargo i.e., ships carrying cargo from India to foreign ports. The Multimodal Transportation of Goods Act, 1993 applies to multimodal transportation of cargo from one place in India to a place outside India using more than two means of transport. For cargo claims, the Indian Bills of Lading Act, 1856 is applicable. The Specific Relief Act, of 1963 deals with the specific performance of contracts from an equitable remedy standpoint. Other contractual obligations, disputes and damages arising out of breach of contract would be dealt with by the Indian Contract Act, 1872.

As per a report released by RedCore, the Indian Road Logistics market is said to reach about 330 billion by the year 2025[6]. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (“MORTH”) and the National Highways Authority of India (“NHAI”) are entrusted with the task of formulating and administering policies on road transport and freight. Whereas, the Carriage by Road Act, 2007 provides for the regulation of common carriers of goods by road. The Carriage by Road Rules, 2011, stipulates conditions for the grant of registration which applicants must comply with. Some of the challenges that the road transport sector faces are lack of road infrastructure, poor network connectivity and unorganized players with high levels of competition.

 

Case Study: The Ever Given, the Cargo Ship Stuck in the Suez

 

It is known that in the year 2020, more than 50 ships per day on average passed through the 190-km-long waterway of the Suez Canal, which accounted for around 12% of international trade. One of the ships during the time was ‘The Ever Given’. It is estimated that about 90 % of the world’s trade is transported by sea. Ever Given was stuck in the Suez Canal for a period of 6 days. It is estimated that more than $9 billion worth of goods pass through the 190 km waterway each day, amounting to around $400 million per hour. Therefore 6 days of the Ever Given being stuck in the Suez Canal caused cascading havoc to global trade and the logistics supply chain. 

Another instance of how the Ever Given stuck in the Suez affected the global logistics supply chain is the hindrance of trade between Asian and European nations in the following year. It is a known fact that waterways are one of the important mediums for transportation and trade between Asia and Europe. Cotton is regularly supplied from India to Europe by the Suez Canal, similar to the movement of petroleum along the Suez from the Middle East. This directly impacted the supply chain as it resulted in problems with warehousing.

 

A Way Forward for the Logistics Sector

 

As it is noted by the above case study, not having sufficient means of warehousing results in a higher possibility of facing challenges resulting in the disruption of the logistics supply chain. Force Majeure events such as the pandemic have unveiled the need for more warehouses to combat this situation. Furthermore, the GST regime of the Indian Government in recent years has brought about a positive impact to the logistics industry by enabling quicker transportation due to the uniform rate of taxes in all states of India and unhindered transit of goods by the abolition of entry levies. The need of the hour is to develop adequate warehousing infrastructure in the fringe areas of major metropolitan trade hubs of the country and in high commerce corridors. To combat other legal challenges, it is suggested that there should be an organized inventory of all logistics and supply chain documentation for the purpose of claim substantiation which will be necessary at the time of arbitrations and bilateral disputes. Furthermore, moving forward to a technology-driven documentation approach would highly impact the logistic sector by avoiding transit delays and untimely deliveries caused due to improper documentation.

References:

 

[1] Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, Notification.No.13/1/2017-INF dated 26th April 2021

[2] Invest in logistics sector in India, National Infrastructure Pipeline, India Investment Grid, https://indiainvestmentgrid.gov.in/sectors/logistics (last visited Nov 25, 2021

[3] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/impact-of-logistics-industry-on-economic-growth-amidst-a-pandemic/article36139749.ece

[4]  [4] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/logistics/budget-gives-a-leg-up-to-ship-leasing-from-international-financial-services-centre/article64962397.ece

[5] M/s SCG Contracts India Pvt. Ltd v. K.S. Chamankar Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. C.A. No. 1638 of 2019

[6] https://www.pgurus.com/indias-road-logistics-market-to-see-a-surge-expected-to-reach-330-bn-by-2025/

 

Image Credits: Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay 

The need of the hour is to develop adequate warehousing infrastructure in the fringe areas of major metropolitan trade hubs of the country and in high commerce corridors. To combat other legal challenges, it is suggested that there should be an organized inventory of all logistics and supply chain documentation for the purpose of claim substantiation which will be necessary at the time of arbitrations and bilateral disputes. 

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Budget 2022: Ushering a Golden Era in the Indian Infrastructure Landscape

This Budget seeks to lay the foundation and give a blueprint to steer the economy over the AmritKaal of the next 25 years – from India at 75 to India at 100. It continues to build on the vision drawn in the Budget of 2021-22. Its fundamental tenets, which included transparency of financial statement and fiscal position, reflect the government’s intent, strengths, and challenges. This continues to guide us. – Smt. Nirmala Sitaraman

The Union Budget of 2022-2023 that estimates India’s economic growth at 9.2% amidst the Omicron wave entered with a strong statement into the AmritKaal, that ushers India@100 with its goal at a macroeconomic level growth. It focusses to promote public and private investments, development backed by technology, digital economy, fintech, energy and climate action. Building on the Budget of 2021-2022, this Budget of 2022-2023 acknowledges strengthening of health infrastructure, Productivity Linked Incentive for achieving the vision of AtmaNirbhar Bharat, commencement of activities of the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) and National Asset Reconstruction Company and continues to provide a blueprint for India@100 along with a multi-modal approach guided by PM GatiShakti.

PM GatiShakti

Propelled by seven engines, namely, Roads, Railways, Airports, Ports, Mass Transport, Waterways, and Logistics Infrastructure and supported by Energy Transmission, IT Communication, Bulk Water & Sewerage, Social Infrastructure, Clean Energy and Public Private Partnership (PPP), PM GatiShakti is aimed to steer sustainable development, economic transformation, seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics efficiency comprising the State Government infrastructure and National Infrastructure Pipeline.  

Roads: Expansion of National Highways network by 25,000 km in 2022-23 along with mobilization of 20,000 crore

Seamless Multimodal Movement and Logistics: Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) for data exchange to improve the logistics scenario in India by adopting a unified and integrated view of the Indian logistics value chain. Further boost has been facilitated through implementation of Multimodal Logistics Parks at four locations through PPP mode.

Railways: Introduction of 400 new Vande Bharat trains, 100 PM Gati Shakti cargo terminals in the next three years, bringing 2,000 km of network under the indigenous world class technology Kavach, along with redevelopment and modernization of the stations, integration of Postal and Railways networks, aiding local business and supply chain through ‘One Station-One Product’ concept are a few measures to ensure next generation of energy efficient trains, better passenger experience and seamless movement.

Connectivity: Multimodal connectivity between mass urban transport and railway stations is envisaged. Innovative solutions such as National Ropeways Development Programme on PPP mode has found a place in the Budget wherein 8 ropeway projects for a length of 60 km will be awarded.

Inclusive Development

Financing startups for agriculture and rural enterprise through a fund with blended capital raised under the co-investment model, facilitated through NABARD has been provided. River linking projects and finalization of Detailed Project Report for linking of 5 rivers has also been contemplated.

Extension of Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme up to March 2023 and expansion of its guarantee cover by 50,000 crores to total cover of 5 lakh crores in order to aid the MSME sector with additional credit has been put forward. 

Infusion of funds in the Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises scheme and an outlay of 6,000 crore in the Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance (RAMP) programme shall assist in additional credit, employment opportunities and infusing competitiveness, efficiency and resilience in the MSME sector. Allocation of 48,000 crores for affordable housing covering 80 lakh houses along with reduction of time required for approvals related to land and construction is a step to ensure housing for all.

Under the Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North-East, PM-DevINE, scheme, an initial allocation of 1,500 crore has been presented for funding infrastructure and social development projects such as roads and ropeways. The Budget also proposes construction of village infrastructure, tourist centres, road connectivity and provisioning of decentralized renewable energy.

Productivity Enhancement & Investment, Sunrise Opportunities, Energy Transition, and Climate Action

Bosting ease of doing business, expanding the scope of single window portal for all green clearances, urban development especially of 2 and 3 tier cities, modernization of building byelaws, implementation of Town Planning Schemes (TPS), and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) are a few other measures proposed by the Budget. 

In order to promote clean and sustainable mobility emphasis on clean tech and governance solutions, special mobility zones with zero fossil-fuel policy, and EV vehicles is given.

Impetus has been given to government procurement by introducing reforms such as use of transparent quality criteria, payment of 75 per cent of running bills within 10 days, settlement  through conciliation, end-to-end online e-Bill System, and use of surety bonds instead of bank guarantee. 

The Budget has also used PPP as the mode for laying optical fibre in all villages to enable access to affordable broadband and mobile service especially since 5G mobile services shall be rolled out. 

Amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to enhance the efficacy of the resolution process and introducing a new legislation to replace the Special Economic Zones Act in to ensure optimal usage of available infrastructure and competitiveness is of the exports are a few suggested legislative reforms. 

Allocation of 19,500 crore in the Solar sector, introducing four pilot projects for coal gasification and conversion of coal into required chemicals, transition to circular economy and carbon neutral economy are steps in the direction of combating climate change.

Financing of Investments

Promotion of green infrastructure through issue of sovereign Green Bonds, setting up of International Arbitration Centre in the GIFT City, inclusion of 107 Data Centres and Energy Storage Systems within the umbrella of Infrastructure, promotion of thematic funds for blended finance with 20% Government share are a few measures introduced by the Budget to embolden its objective of financing of investments. The financial viability of the Infrastructure projects has by adopting global best practices, innovative ways of financing, and balanced risk allocation has been proposed.

CapEx Coupled with Infrastructure Spearheads Budget 2022

The Budget ensures capacity building for Infrastructure projects. It aims to provide seamless connectivity, logistics synergy and convenience for the commuters along with reducing congestion and promoting tourism. The Budget promotes innovative ways of financing, reduces logistics cost and time and aims to improve international competitiveness.

Along with its proposed reforms and allocation of funds, it can be said that the Infrastructure coupled with capital expenditure will be spearheading the Budget. We hope to see contracts awarded to EPC Contractors and PPP Projects for rail development. Expansion of expressway through EPC/PPP model will undoubtably usher concession to private players and EPC Contractors. Overall, the Infrastructure development through PPP mode has been propagated by the Budget right from village infrastructure, urban planning, projects in the Northeast region to Solar projects and green infrastructure projects.

Moreover, reforms in legislation and policies such as the procurement policy is a stride towards economic development and building the nation. Finally the Budget also provides for issuance of Surety Bond to the Developers/Contractors in the place of Performance Bank Guarantee (PBG) which will ease the financial burden of the Concessionaire/Developer/Contractors in obtaining the said PBG from the Banks by depositing of 100% Margin Money.

Image Credits: Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

Building on the Budget of 2021-2022, this Budget of 2022-2023 acknowledges strengthening of health infrastructure, Productivity Linked Incentive for achieving the vision of AtmaNirbhar Bharat, commencement of activities of the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) and National Asset Reconstruction Company and continues to provide a blueprint for India@100 along with a multi-modal approach guided by PM GatiShakti.

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Public Procurement Reforms: Light at the End of the Tunnel

The imperatives of a growing and liberalized economy impel objectivity and transparency in the decision-making process. A substantial amount is spent by the Government in procuring several goods and services in order to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the assigned work. This drives the need for uniform, systematic, efficient, and cost-effective solutions in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations. The need of the hour propelled the release of guidelines for reforms in public procurement and project management, General Instructions on Procurement and Project Management, by the Ministry of Finance (hereinafter referred to as the “Procurement Guidelines”). 

Incorporating innovative rules to facilitate faster, efficient, and transparent execution of projects remains the predominant objective of the Procurement Guidelines. The Procurement Guidelines attempt to empower executing agencies to make prompt and efficient decisions in accordance with public interest, probity, and fairness. Since the challenge lies in executing the projects within the stipulated time and cost without compromising on the quality, the role of these Procurement Guidelines is paramount

 

Overview of the Procurement and Project Management Guidelines

 

The Procurement Guidelines stipulate a presentation of the findings of the project feasibility study or the preliminary project report to the designated competent authority to provide an assessment of the overall situation and risk mitigation methods. These discussions may also become a part of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) wherein the field units of the public authority shall be a part of the DPR preparation process. The involvement of field units of the public authority is essential in the endeavour for appropriate solutions since these field units are custodians of legacy data of a particular geographical region.

The Procurement Guidelines provide that the availability of minimum necessary encumbrance free land should be ensured before awarding the contract. Ascertaining the same will be done on a case-to-case basis or based on the general guidelines issued by the concerned authority. The Procurement Guidelines prescribe expedition of the process for obtaining statutory and other clearances and monitoring of the progress in obtaining clearances by the public authority. Avoidance of delay in execution of work and deviation in quantities of items of work is prevented by ensuring the availability of approved architectural and structural drawings prior to the invitation of tenders. A pre-notice inviting tender conference is proposed to obtain industry inputs. The empanelment of contractors in a fair, equitable and online manner for specific goods and services that are required regularly is also prescribed.

Several reforms have been set forth in the tender document which is salient in governing the relationship between the parties. The need for clarity in clauses that do not give scope for multiple interpretations has been proposed with emphasis on provisions pertaining to milestones, approvals, price variation, quality assurance plan, technical eligibility, and financial eligibility criteria. The contractors shall receive payment at every stage in proportion to the quantum of work done. The Procurement Guidelines have initiated payment of interest in case of delayed payments of bills submitted by the contractor backed by an online system for monitoring to identify and avoid unwarranted delays. Moreover, the efficiency of procurement is enhanced by making online tendering a default method for bidding projects.

Technology backed solutions have been proposed for periodic review of the projects. Use of project management systems for recording delays on a real-time basis, capturing the progress, quality of work, site records and photographs including geotagging have been proposed. The need to clearly define the role of Project Management in the contract has been stressed upon.

In cases of a single bid in the tender, certain conditions have been stipulated to prevent the cost of rebidding and banish the notion of rebidding being a safe course of action since rebidding leads to further costs and delays. As far as the procurement was advertised with sufficient time to submit the bids, qualification criteria were not unduly restrictive and reasonable prices in comparison to market values have been quoted, single bids are considered valid.

A graded authority structure has been proposed to grant an extension of time. Framing of methods such as single or limited tenders for part completed contracts wherein 20% of the work has been billed by the contractor who has abandoned the project has been introduced. This will reduce the inconveniences, loss of amenities, time and cost due to half-completed work. The Procurement Guidelines mandate EPC contracts to mention broad technical specifications with the freedom to the contractor to optimize the design. The incorporation of conditions in the tender documents for procurement of consultancy services and fixed budget-based selection has also been presented.

Quality cum Cost Based Selection (QCBS) for procurement of works and non-consultancy services where the value of procurement does not exceed Rs. 10 crores and has been declared as a Quality Oriented Procurement, is set forth as an alternative method of procurement. In the case of QCBS, the maximum weightage given to non-financial parameters should not exceed 30%. Weightage for timely completion of similar projects in the past may also be considered in the tender documents along with fulfilment of mandatory criteria for evaluation of bid and joint ventures may be allowed subject to adequate safeguards.

Acknowledging the adverse implications of litigation on timelines and overall project cost in form of heavy damages or additional interest cost, the Procurement Guidelines demand a critical review of the award by a special board or committee. This board or committee should consider legal merits, probability of success, costs and must be satisfied that an appeal is likely to be more beneficial. An appeal should be recommended only upon application of mind on the facts and circumstances of the case and analyzing the chances of success. The Procurement Guidelines stipulate compliance to Rule 227A of the General Financial Rules, 2017 (GFRs) according to which the Department/Ministry that has challenged the arbitral award has to pay 75% of the arbitral award including interest to the contractor or concessionaire against a bank guarantee. The payment should be made into the designated escrow account. Personal accountability shall arise in case of non-compliance to Rule 227A of GFRs to the extent of additional interest in the event the final court order is not in favour of the procuring entity.

 

A Step in the Right Direction

Transparency should trickle down into public procurement in order to facilitate competition, fairness and elimination of arbitrariness in the system. The Procurement Guidelines stipulate several appreciative reforms. The release of payment to the contractor in commensuration of the completed work will provide liquidity to the cash-strapped contractors. Review of work at various stages of contracts leads to an assessment of delay in execution of work by the concerned stakeholder and serves as a record in case of a dispute. Right of way for projects remains a major concern since minimum necessary encumbrance free land shall be determined on a case-to-case basis or general guidelines which may lead to further delays owing to peculiarities or absence of guidelines. Despite conditions being laid down to deal with situations of a single bid, the same may not promote a competitive bid. Alternative solutions such as the Swiss Challenge method may be used in order to prevent monopoly. It is pertinent to note that the L1 approach as the chief criterion to award the project has been eliminated thereby emphasizing the quality of work. While releasing 75% of the award for projects stuck in disputes is a welcome step, a proper mechanism to realize the advantages of the same must be established without which the contractor would be burdened with poorly negotiated bank guarantees and be required to open an escrow account in case of EPC projects. Nevertheless, a robust system instils confidence in the prospective tenderers to formulate competitive tenders. Undoubtedly, the concentrated efforts are a step in the direction of economic development, removal of unwarranted roadblocks and addressing the plaguing problems in public projects.P

Image Credits: Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

Transparency should trickle down into public procurement in order to facilitate competition, fairness and elimination of arbitrariness in the system. The Guidelines stipulate several appreciative reforms. The release of payment to the contractor in commensuration of the completed work will provide liquidity to the cash-strapped contractors. Review of work at various stages of contracts leads to an assessment of delay in execution of work by the concerned stakeholder and serves as a record in case of dispute.

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Government Incentives for Infrastructure Development

India is emerging to become a global leader in investing in world-class infrastructure projects, in view of concrete plans set out in the 2021 Budget. With unwavering growth in the Indian stock market witnessed by indexes touching unprecedented highs, the Indian infrastructure sector is filled with signs of optimism as the country reels out from the effects of the pandemic. Current trends suggest a boost in infrastructure spending that shall also facilitate infusion of overseas capita for investments in other sectors and an availability of credit for infrastructure projects.

The government’s National Infrastructure Plan for 2019 to 2025 has already supported more than 9000 projects having a total project cost surpassing USD 1949 billion.[1] The National Infrastructure Pipeline is a live database of infrastructure projects and provides attractive investment opportunities in projects worth more than INR 100 crores in sectors including Transport, Logistics, Energy, Water and Sanitation, Communication, Social and Commercial Infrastructure.[2]

 

Apart from this, opportunities are available through the government’s ‘India Investment Grid’ (IIG) for investing in stressed assets to allow the purchase of viable stressed assets which have the potential for being turned around.[3] IIG also facilitates Corporate Social Responsibility opportunities for businesses to invest in infrastructure building in the education, healthcare sectors and for poverty alleviation as part of their CSR spending.[4]

These investment opportunities are coupled with a bold move towards introducing National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Act, 2021. The long-overdue initiative establishes a government-owned Development Finance Institution (DFI) for extending long-term affordable debt financing to infrastructure projects. The DFI is set to receive initial funding from the government and is projected to have a lending capability of a minimum of INR 5 trillion by 2024-25. The appointment of the veteran banker, Mr. K V Kamath as the chairperson of the newly set up INR 20,000 crore DFI- National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development, falls in alignment with the developmental and financial objectives of DFI.

The INR 40, 000 crore National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) anchored by the Government of India in 2015 is also gaining momentum through its funds namely, Master Fund, Fund of Funds and Strategic Opportunities Fund each with a designated purpose.

 

Impetus has been given to the domestic manufacturing ecosystem through the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, especially to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) aiming to facilitate local manufacturing. As a further boost to the initiative, the government intends to achieve a turnover of US$ 25 billion including export of US$ 5 billion in aerospace and defense goods and services by 2025[5]. An increase in the capital expenditure will augment the procurement of weapons, aircraft, warships, and other military hardware. Posing as a lucrative market for defense companies, India gives orders worth US$ 100 billion a year for defense procurement.[6] Therefore, the Finance Ministry has permitted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defense for sector up to 74 percent under the automatic route leading to access of modern technology, strategic partnerships between foreign manufactures and defense equipment manufacturers in India. It also promotes active utilization of the Technology of Funds scheme that supports MSMEs in catering to the requirements of technological development in the defense sector.  

 

With a capital infusion of INR 1,000 crores to Solar Energy Corporation of India, there is a likely surge in large-scale solar installations, grid-connected projects, solar plants, and solar parks along with a phased manufacturing plan for solar cells, solar panels, and domestic production of solar inverters and solar lanterns.

 

The Government of India has also earmarked areas including highways, railways, power grids, and airports to monetize public infrastructure for financing new public projects. Statutory authorities have already begun setting up infrastructure investment trusts (InvIT) which will hold the public infrastructure assets for national as well as international institutional investors. Another avenue under consideration for obtaining public investment into infrastructure projects is issuance of tax-efficient zero-coupon bonds by infrastructure debt funds.

 

Major tenders worth more than INR 20 billion are expected to be issued in the coming financial year for public-private partnership in the management and operations of ports.

 

The logistics sector serves national trade, international trade, MSMEs, and start-ups. The launch of INR 100 crore Gati Shakti National Master Plan for Multi-Modal Connectivity has heralded new possibilities. This digital platform will incorporate the infrastructure schemes of various Ministries and State Governments like Bharatmala, Sagarmala, inland waterways, dry/land ports, UDAN etc; Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defense corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, fishing clusters, Agri zones will be covered to improve connectivity and make Indian businesses more competitive[7]. The National Logistics Policy is expected to promote seamless movement of goods through a focus on digitization, process re-engineering, multi-modal transport, EXIM trade, etc.[8] It is designed to streamline rules and address supply-side constraints, leading to lower logistics costs, the boost of trade, enhancement of Logistics Performance Index and greater competitiveness for Indian products worldwide.

 

In the power sector, apart from an INR 3 trillion outlay planned over the coming five years for revamping the power distribution scheme by providing distribution companies with financial assistance for developing a smart-metering infrastructure, the government is also in the advanced stages of launching a National Hydrogen Mission which may provide an opportunity for corporations in the power sector to engage in the export of green hydrogen and green ammonia while also meeting the domestic demand.

 

These dynamic initiatives clubbed with the use of India’s IT capabilities by creating monitoring mechanisms such as a dashboard to track the progress of publicly monetized infrastructure projects have created attractive opportunities for infrastructure companies to mobilize their assets into the establishment of new development projects.

 

Fox Mandal’s Infrastructure, Project Finance, and Energy Teams deliver unmatched expert services in wide-ranging areas of public infrastructure, inclusive of but not limited to ; transaction assistance for infrastructure projects, services of review, compliance, submitting tender documents, structuring and reviewing concession agreements, incorporation of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), procuring relevant licenses and approvals, regulatory clearance facilitation, dispute resolution, strategy planning, and infrastructure contract bidding management.

 

As a commendation for the services rendered by Fox Mandal, the Firm featured in 2021 Legal 500 Rankings for its Projects & Energy Practice vertical.  

 

References: 

[1] https://indiainvestmentgrid.gov.in/national-infrastructure-pipeline

[2] https://indiainvestmentgrid.gov.in/opportunities/nip-projects/transport and https://indiainvestmentgrid.gov.in/national-infrastructure-pipeline

[3] https://indiainvestmentgrid.gov.in/opportunities/stressed-assets/transport?subSector=112%2C37%2C110%2C108%2C109%2C107%2C106%2C111%2C113

[4] https://indiainvestmentgrid.gov.in/opportunities/csr-projects?sector=29%2C10&subSector=97%2C99%2C157%2C94%2C100%2C93%2C102%2C105%2C96%2C95%2C103%2C104%2C98%2C112%2C37%2C110%2C108%2C109%2C107%2C106%2C111%2C113

[5] https://www.investindia.gov.in/sector/defence-manufacturing

[6] https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/higher-fdi-in-defence-sector-to-attract-mncs-give-make-in-india-a-boost-120051900698_1.html

[7] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1763638

[8] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/logistics-and-supply-chain-trends-for-2021/article36366467.ece

 

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Photo by David Rodrigo on Unsplash

These dynamic initiatives clubbed with the use of India’s IT capabilities by creating monitoring mechanisms such as a dashboard to track the progress of publicly monetized infrastructure projects have created attractive opportunities for infrastructure companies to mobilize their assets into the establishment of new development projects.

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Anatomy of Risks in PPP Projects in India and How to Mitigate Them?

The infrastructure space has always been a capital-intensive sector. Particularly for a developing country such as India, the unique financing and project implementation models that Public-Private Partnerships (“PPP”) represent is considerable for enabling the construction of large-scale public infrastructure projects with significant long-term economic value and ensuring necessary infrastructure development is undertaken in the country.

However, considering the long timelines, involvement of multiple stakeholders, and significant capital expenditure in infrastructure projects, there are significant risks associated with them that are likely to emerge at any phase of the project. So far, in India, PPP seems to be the only viable model for the implementation of public infrastructure projects in an otherwise cash-strapped economy.

In this article, we will briefly discuss the broad phases of any PPP project, associated risks and the suggested risk mitigation measures.

Phases of a PPP Project

The broad phases of a PPP project are as below:

Phases of PPP ProjectEach of these phases is critical for ensuring the long-term success of viable PPP projects. In brief, the following activities are undertaken in each of these phases.

  1. Phase 1 (PPP Bidding Phase): Subsequent to the requisite feasibility studies by the government, the potential PPP project is given the go-ahead, commencing the bidding phase. As a first step to the bidding process, the authority issues an Expression of Interest (“EOI”) and/or a Request for Quote (“RFQ”) and/or a Request for Proposal (“RFP”), followed by the preparation of a Concession Agreement (“CA”). The highest bidder is chosen, the project is awarded to the successful bidder and the CA is executed thereafter. Post the issuance of the Letter of Award to the successful bidder, several procedures are to be followed, such as achieving financial closure, undertaking technical planning and design, obtaining necessary permits and approvals, and establishing a proper team for implementing the project.
  2. Phase 2 (PPP Development Phase): The next phase is the construction phase, where the project is implemented. After the construction of the facilities is completed, the authority inspects. If the inspection is satisfactory, it declares the project ready for operation and sets the commercial operation date (“COD”).
  3. Phase 3 (PPP Operation & Maintenance): Following the COD declaration, this phase designates a project in operation, which includes maintenance during the operation phase.

 

Risks and Their Mitigation Mechanisms

The most common and significant risks in PPP are:

  1. Delays in land acquisition or rights of way – This is one of the most critical risks in every PPP project. When the land acquisition processes fail, timely access to sites and other subsequent formalities stand compromised leading to unwarranted delays in the development project.
  2. Delays in obtaining relevant approvals/permits – Prior to large scale construction projects being commenced, there is a requirement to obtain different types of permits and approvals for commencing such activities, such as environmental clearance, permits for moving civic activities to other locations, etc.
  3. Design Risk – Usually means a faulty design that does not meet predetermined parameters of the facility, requiring changes, resulting in time and cost overruns.
  4. Inflation Risk – Inflation leads to an overall increase in the price of raw materials, transportation costs and general costs of services. This is aggravated by undue delays in projects translating to an increase in the overall project cost.
  5. Revenue/Demand Risk – This is where the forecasted revenue for the project and/or the potential that can be generated has been improperly projected or based on outdated data, thereby affecting the viability of the project.
  6. Construction/Completion Risk/Time and Cost Overruns Risk – One of the major risks in PPP project that causes delays in achieving COD is delays in construction and eventual completion.
  7. Financial Risk – Difficulty in raising project finances or raising very expensive financing that may not be feasible in the long run. Read a detailed analysis of the Project Cost in Infrastructure Projects
  8. Operational Risk – Inefficiencies in operating costs, lead to higher operating costs, arresting leakage of revenue.
  9. Political/Regulatory Risk – Changes in political and/or regulatory regimes that result in project devaluation, lower revenues or faulty project implementation.
  10. Performance/Default/Termination Risk – When the private contractor or consortium is responsible for investing funds in the project’s execution and becomes insolvent or undertakes faulty construction and erection of facilities due to lack of expertise on the part of the private contractor.
  11. Asset Value/Technology Obsolescence Risk – Occurs when the technology is not a proven one or when the asset value decreases significantly owing to policy or regulatory changes.
  12. Social and Environmental Risks – The project affects the local environment in the region of construction or has a significantly adverse collateral impact on the local population in the region, thereby creating obstacles in the implementation of the project or increasing time and cost overruns.
  13. Absence of renegotiation clause in CA – This is one of the oldest demands of many concessionaires in any PPP project in India, which is yet to be addressed by the authorities. As CA is valid for a longer duration, sometimes lasting 30 years, no concessionaire is in a position to perceive risk which may affect the project during the length of the entire concession period. The authorities should provide the necessary mechanisms for renegotiation of long-term PPP contracts.

Now we shall examine a few case studies that would demonstrate any combination of the above set of risk factors.

Case Study 1: Delhi – Gurgaon Expressway[1]

The National Highways Authority of India (“NHAI”) was entrusted with the task of executing the golden quadrilateral project wherein the four metro cities were sought to be connected. The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway stretch of the golden quadrilateral project was to be executed via the Build, Operate and Transfer (“BOT”) method and was awarded to a consortium of Jaiprakash Industries Ltd. and DS Constructions Ltd. Right from the start, there were several issues with the execution of the project. They’re discussed as below.

  1. Land acquisition – NHAI was responsible for granting the right of way to the concessionaire, which was delayed significantly, leading to a delay in developing and a consequential delay in commissioning the project.

Mitigation mechanism: NHAI should not bid out any project until 90 % of the land is acquired and subsequent possession is taken over.

  1. Approvals – The obtaining of permits/approvals is another important risk to be addressed. NHAI shall assist the bidder in facilitating the said approval within the stipulated time as envisaged in the CA.

Mitigation mechanism: To speed-up the process, the government could have constituted a single authority that the concessionaire could approach to expeditiously obtain all the required permits/approvals.

  1. Design & Social Risk – Such large-scale projects possess the capability of displacing and affecting multiple lives and families.

Mitigation mechanism: Large-scale public consultations involving affected families and relevant government agencies should have been conducted prior to the commencement of the project, to mitigate their concerns and ascertain viable steps forward.

  1. Technology Risk – NHAI generally relied on older traffic studies to predict the volume of traffic to arrive at bid numbers. This was a gross underestimation of the eventual flow of traffic, leading to an improper estimation of traffic numbers.

Mitigation mechanism: NHAI should use the latest technology and traffic studies to finalise the bid numbers.

Case Study 2: Vadodara Halol Toll Road[2]

The Vadodara Halol Toll Road was one of the first projects involving the widening of state highways and commenced under the aegis of the Government of Gujarat. The Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (“IL&FS”) was roped in by the Government of Gujarat to develop the road project. A special purpose vehicle (“SPV”) was incorporated for this purpose and the project was developed using the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (“BOOT”) model. Considering that the World Bank was one of the investors in this project, high standards of execution and implementation were followed, and this project turned out to be an example of best practises followed to mitigate various types of risks. The same is discussed below, along with a few mitigation strategies where appropriate.

  1. Environmental and Social Risk: One of the significant plus points of this project was the extensive environmental and social impact assessment that was undertaken during the project development phase itself. As per initial reports, around 300 families would have been affected by the initial plan of the project. However, intense public consultations were held at the development stage of the project and bypasses and various alternatives were introduced and the number of affected households was eventually reduced to 10. The project also complied with the environmental and social norms by creating wetlands, reducing emissions, constructing pedestrian subways, planting 550 trees across the sides of the roads, creating noise barriers at sensitive receptors and deepening the waterbodies in some villages along the project site.
  2. Policy Risk: The drop in revenues because of eventual changes in government policies certainly affected the concessionaire’s ability to recover their investment from the project.

Mitigation mechanism: Robust consultations and even ongoing consultations with several government departments and agencies to ensure government incentives to increase road traffic in this area might have been useful in mitigating this policy risk and enabling the project to recoup its initial investments.

  1. Financial Innovation / Risk: This is one of the first projects where innovative financing mechanisms were adopted such as the use of Deep Discount Bonds with the option of take-out financing, cumulative convertible preference shares and long-term loans from IL&FS. The project created several such examples of innovative financing, which were eventually replicated in other projects in the infrastructure industry.

Conclusion

In light of the discussed range of risks that one may encounter during the entire lifecycle of PPP projects and their potential impact; it is pertinent that the authorities approach every PPP project in every sector as a partnership and weighs the inputs of all the relevant stakeholders. If the government proactively strategizes to remove the unidirectional nature of PPP CAs in India, and both the private partner and the authorities work in resonance, the current risks plaguing the PPP project will be resolved, resulting in an active involvement and interest from the private sector in participating in PPP projects in India.

References:

[1] See “Case Study 8: Delhi Gurgaon Expressway” in Public Private Partnerships in India – A Compendium of Case Studies, available at https://www.pppinindia.gov.in/toolkit/pdf/case_studies.pdf. Last visited on November 1, 2021

[2] See “Case Study 6: Vadodara Halol Toll Road” in Public Private Partnerships in India – A Compendium of Case Studies, available at https://www.pppinindia.gov.in/toolkit/pdf/case_studies.pdf. Last visited on November 1, 2021

Image Credits:

Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

Considering the long timelines, involvement of multiple stakeholders, and significant capital expenditure in infrastructure projects, there are significant risks associated with them that are likely to emerge at any phase of the project. So far, in India, PPP seems to be the only viable model for the implementation of public infrastructure projects in an otherwise cash-strapped economy.

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Global Captive Centers in India: Can Add Value if Set Up Differently

Major forces of change, such as the emergence of new technologies, maturing of platform-based business models and other competitive threats are forcing businesses to transform themselves. Another driver of large-scale change is the pandemic, which has led to new ways of working. Hybrid models, where a large chunk of employees work remotely and not from a designated office space, are now becoming the norm. Although some companies have begun to announce plans for their employees to return to workplaces, the consensus opinion is that a hybrid model is going to become the new norm because it significantly reduces operating costs; also, employees are finding it more convenient.

One area where the above changes are clearly visible relates to how large and medium enterprises across industries are looking at outsourcing to countries such as India. In recent years, the contours of both IT outsourcing and BPO have evolved rapidly; the above-mentioned forces of change are only accelerating the velocity of change.

A survey by NASSCOM recently found that by 2025, MNCs are likely to set up 500 new Global Captive Centers (GCCs) in India. Until two years ago, the number of such units established annually was around 50. This demonstrates that India’s large talent pool continues to be attractive. But it’s a different world we live in than even five years ago.

Earlier, most MNCs viewed their GCCs in India as low-cost delivery centers and design, architecture, prioritization of projects etc. were all the exclusive domain of Business/Technology leaders in the parent company. Cost arbitrage opportunities still exist in India vis-à-vis western countries, and thus, cost savings will remain an important objective for evaluating GCC performance. However, the ongoing shifts are raising the bar on how GCCs are expected to contribute to their parent organizations. Along with cost-efficient service delivery, enhancing automation, driving process innovation and enabling adoption of new technologies and architecture paradigms will all become important performance criteria. In some cases, there may even be expectations of new product innovations coming out of the Indian GCC.

MNCs will need appropriate operating models and talent to deliver on the potential. Employee contracts need to be suitably structured. IPR must be appropriately protected. Compliance with data privacy and other regulations must be ensured. As MNCs plan and implement their GCCs in India, they must keep in mind that India too is changing rapidly. They must formulate their strategies keeping in mind four specific factors:

  • Quality infrastructure (including reliable electricity and broadband connectivity) is now available across the country, and not limited to Tier 1 cities. This gives companies a wider choice of locating their GCCs.
  • As a result of reverse-migration triggered by the pandemic, talent too is available in smaller cities across the country. Given the possibility of remote working, the proximity to families and lower cost of living have become significant incentives; in fact, many employees prefer to live and work from such locations.
  • Many state governments are offering incentives to companies establishing operations in less-developed parts of their states and creating employment opportunities.
  • The country’s FDI, income tax and GST regimes are also frequently being tweaked to make India more competitive and business-friendly.

All this means that making choices and decisions around business objectives, investment routing, structuring and locations based on criteria and checklists that were relevant even a couple of years ago may lead to sub-optimal outcomes. Your GCC in India has the potential to be a global Centre of Excellence- so make sure that you make the right decisions so that your investments deliver ROI in ways that go far beyond cost arbitrage.

Mr. Sandip Sen, former Global CEO of Aegis and a well-known veteran of the BPO industry, put it thus: “These are exciting times for the Business Process Management industry for many reasons. Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics and higher levels of automation mean that players at the lower end of the value chain will need to raise their capabilities. In the next phase, GCCs will focus more on innovation as well as technology enablement aimed at enterprises to embrace ecosystem-based business models and higher levels of customer-centricity. But to achieve all this, companies have to take an approach that is very different from what they might have taken some years ago”.

 

Image Credits: Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

MNCs will need appropriate operating models and talent to deliver on the potential. Employee contracts need to be suitably structured. IPR must be appropriately protected. Compliance with data privacy and other regulations must be ensured. 

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Project Cost in Infrastructure Projects: Concept, Challenges and Way Forward

The IMF and Central Statistic Organization had dubbed the Indian economy as the fastest growing economy back in 2019. Moving forward, in 2021 despite the havoc wrecked by the pandemic on advanced economies across the globe, the IMF has kept India’s growth forecast unchanged at 9.5%. In order to sustain India’s growth momentum, the development of country’s infrastructure sector is cogent. The National Infrastructure Pipeline has been the focus of current policies, with an unprecedented increase in capital expenditure allocation for FY 2021-22 by 34.5% to INR 5.5 lakh crore to propel infrastructure creation. However, the April-June 2021 report of The Ministry of Statistics states that 470 projects sanctioned by the centre suffered from a cost overrun of 61.5 percent, that is Rs 4,46,169.37 crore[1].

Project cost remains the central concern for any seminal discussion on infrastructural projects in India or around the world. This is the nebulous point where a host of stakeholders would converge to dispute, disagree, or litigate. This article aims to discuss the concept of project cost and its various implications for the different stakeholders involved.

Introduction to Infrastructure and Projects

 

Costs that are reasonably incurred for the acquisition and construction of infrastructure are referred to as infrastructure costs. Hence, Project cost could mean the total cost of an infrastructure project.  In India, there is no clear definition of the term infrastructure. However, on 1st March 2012, the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure approved the framework to include a harmonised master list of sub-sectors to guide all the agencies responsible for supporting infrastructure in India. These sub-sectors include transports and logistics, energy, water and sanitation, communication, and social infrastructure. Out of the plethora of these sub-sectors, during the fiscals of 2020-2025, it is expected that sub-sectors such as Energy (24%), Roads (19%), Railways (13%) and Urban (16%) shall constitute 70%of the projected capital expenditure in infrastructure in India[2]. The total capital expenditure as per the report is expected to be 102 lakh crore Indian rupees. Furthermore, in India, the current investment in infrastructure is USD 3.9 Trillion, and the required investment is USD 4.5 Trillion, leaving a gap of USD 526 Billion[3]. Therefore, the energy and infrastructure sector are instrumental in generating tremendous employment opportunities and drive a substantial increase in GDP per annum in India as well as countries all over the world.

 

Structure of Project Finance Transactions

 

The main parties involved in a project finance transaction structure are (i) The Authority or the Government (ii) The Private Party Investors/Developers, Sponsors or Promotors and (iii) the Lenders. These three parties are key players responsible for the determination of project costs in infrastructure and construction projects. The principal point of convergence for these three players is the project company (i.e., also known as special purpose vehicle) set up by the private party investors under which the infrastructure project is formed and under which the project exists in the concession agreement. The project cost is mainly estimated by the private party and the lenders who would finance in the form of equity and debt. The typical financial structure for infrastructure projects has a debt-to-equity ratio of 75:25. However, the ratio may vary depending upon the risks involved.

                Illustration I: Key parties that influence the project cost of an infrastructure project

                                                                                                                     

 

Risks that affect the Determination of Project Cost

 

Every project has certain risks attached to its completion. These risks influence the determination of project costs by the authority, the private parties and the lenders. The risks, in turn, then affect the total cost of the project. The risks affecting the three parties are explained below:

 

                                Illustration II: Risks that affect the determination of project cost

    

 Risk for Authority

Risk for Private Party
Investors

Risk for Lender

Technical or physical risks

Economic or market risks

Economic or market risks

Risk relating to land acquisition

Construction and completion risk – cost overrun/time
overrun/delays

Financing risks

For eg. Technical or physical risks may include risks
associated with
technology during
construction and operation as well as social and environmental risks.

For eg. Economic or
market risks may include input and output price variations, variation in
demand, debt/equity financing as well as counterparty risks.

For eg. Economic or
market risks may include input and output price variations, variation in
demand, debt/equity financing as well as counterparty risks.

The other risks that affect the cost of the project are contractual and legal risks, resource and raw material availability risks, demand risks, design risks, force majeure, property damage, permits, licenses, authorization, supply risk, social and environmental risks.

 

The Major Risks affecting Project Cost in India: Cost Overrun and Time Overrun

 

Out of the myriad of risks affecting project cost, the major risks in India are the risks associated with cost and time overruns. As many as 525 infrastructure projects were hit by time overruns, and as many as 470 infrastructure projects, each worth Rs 150 crore or more, were hit by cost overruns of over Rs 4.38 Trillion owing to delays, according to a report by the Ministry of Statistics, cited previously[4] The main causes for time overruns are delay in obtaining forest and environmental clearances, delay in land acquisition,  and lack of infrastructure support.  As per the report, there are other reasons like delay in project financing, delay in finalisation of detailed engineering, alteration in scope, delay in ordering and equipment supply, law, geological issues, contractual complications and delay in tendering.

 

The Key Elements of Project Cost

 

The elements of ‘costing’ include variables such as raw materials, labour, and expenses. Thus, for infrastructure projects as well, at the time of estimation of cost, these variables would come into play. The factors affecting cost for a public-private partnership project could be the following:

 

                        Illustration III: Factors affecting Cost of Projects: PPP model projects

FACTORS AFFECTING COST OF PROJECTS : PPP MODEL PROJECTS

Materials

Labour

Consultants

Contractor

Client

External
Factors

Dispute
Resolution

Costs and delays
associated with procurement and delivery of materials, import costs

Availability or non –
availability of skilled labour.

Recurring changes in
design

Poor site management
and supervision

Change orders

Force Majeure events
and weather changes.

International dispute
resolution in outside jurisdictions[1]

Unavailability of raw
materials

Poor management of
labour

Delay in approvals and
inspections

Inept subcontractors

Political and policy
changes such as MII[2]

Approvals from
authorities

Costly and time-consuming
domestic litigation

Wastage and theft of
materials – 13 to 14 million construction waste (FY 2000-2001)[3]

Increasing cost of
labour

Inaccuracy in design,
costs associated with knowledge transfer

Poor planning,
scheduling and cash flow management by Contractors

Poor communication for
quality and cost

Accidents

High legal costs and high
arbitrators fees[4].
Non-realisation of arbitral awards and court decree amounts.

 

 

Case Study: The Mumbai Monorail – An EPC Contract Model

 

Time and cost overruns in projects lead to disputes and arbitrations. A suitable example is the  Mumbai Monorail which has entered disputes and arbitration between the Contractor and the Authority over its project cost[9]. The development authority MMRDA entered into a contract with L&T Scomi Engineering for the construction of the Mumbai Monorail project. The original project cost between the Private Party Investors and the Authority was estimated to be Rs 2,700 crore, after which disputes arose. The Authority had claims against the Contractor for not completing the project task on time. The arguments of the Contractor pertained to the cost escalations caused by delays due to the fault of the Authority.  In 2019, the Bombay High Court appointed an arbitrator to settle the dispute. Currently, the dispute is still in the arbitration stage. Furthermore, post-December 2018, the MMRDA had taken over the Operation and Maintenance of the Mumbai Monorail project from L&T Scomi Engineering. Due to the Make in India policy, the tenders for manufacturing of the Mumbai Monorail were altered to encourage manufacturers and Indian technology partners to participate and fulfil the demands of manufacturing the additional monorail rakes[10]. Among other issues currently plaguing the Mumbai Monorail project, such as unavailability of a sufficient number of rakes to keep the services running and an inadequate number of spare parts, the widening deficit between revenue and O&M costs, remains primary.   

   

Way Forward

 

As per the report by the Ministry of Statistics cited above, the reason for cost and time overruns can be largely attributed to the state-wise lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been causing great hindrance to the implementation of infrastructure projects. Time and cost overruns in projects lead to disputes and arbitrations. Furthermore, in the procurement stage of projects, biddings in India happen with the project sponsor underbidding for the project so as to survive the competitive market. However, the underbidding combined with lack of margin included in the overall costs by contractors or sponsors often overlook inevitable hidden and unforeseeable costs which in turn enhance the final costs of the project. For instance, the Mumbai-Monorail project is a classic example of cost overrun. The solution would be to have a clear understanding of the project agreements, risks involved in the project particularly the conditions of force majeure, an objective evaluation of project cost while bidding taking into account uncertainties relating to raw material procurement, labour laws, land acquisition and risks related to cost and time overruns due to decisions of the awarding authority or public policy or any of the factors described above. The compensation clauses should be coherent and unambiguous, and in line with actual project cost incurred in the project leaving less scope for future disputes and arbitrations. Furthermore, it would be useful for the contractors / concessionaires , while making claims in an infrastructure project, to do it in a timely manner while maintaining clear and systematic evidentiary documentation, to substantiate the claims that may have arisen during the course of the project.

References: 

[1] http://www.cspm.gov.in/english/flr/FR_Mar_2021.pdf

[2] Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman releases Report of the Task Force on National Infrastructure Pipeline for 2019-2025, dated 31 December 2019, Press Information Bureau, pib.gov.in (2019), https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1598055 (last visited Sep 17, 2021).

[3] Forecasting Infrastructure Investment Needs and gaps, Global Infrastructure Outlook – A G20 INITIATIVE, https://outlook.gihub.org/ (last visited Sep 17, 2021).

[4] 422nd Flash Report on Central Sector Projects (Rs.150 Crore and Above), March 2021, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation Infrastructure and Project Monitoring Division (2021), Available at: http://www.cspm.gov.in/english/flr/FR_Mar_2021.pdf (last visited Sep 17, 2021)

[5] Joseph Mante, Issaka Ndekugri & Nii Ankrah, Resolution of Disputes Arising From Major Infrastructure Projects In Developing Countries Fraunhofer, https://www.irbnet.de/daten/iconda/CIB_DC24504.pdf (last visited Sep 17, 2021).

[6] Make in India Initiative, Government of India.

[7] Sandeep Shrivastava and Abdol Chini M.E. Rinker Sr., Construction Materials and C&D Waste in India, School of Building Construction University of Florida, USA, https://www.irbnet.de/daten/iconda/CIB14286.pdf (last visited Sep 17, 2021).

[8] Amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, August 2014, Law Commission of India, Report No.246.

[9] Larsen and Toubro Limited Scomi Engineering BHD vs. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority MANU 2018 SC 1151, Arbitration Petition (C) No. 28 OF 2017.

[10]Adimulam, S. (2021, March 2). Mumbai: Monorail rakes will be made in India. Mumbai. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/mumbai-monorail-rakes-will-be-made-in-india.

 

 

Image Credits: Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

The solution would be to have a clear understanding of the project agreements, risks involved in the project particularly the conditions of force majeure, an objective evaluation of project cost while bidding taking into account uncertainties relating to raw material procurement, labour laws, land acquisition and risks related to cost and time overruns due to decisions of the awarding authority or public policy or any of the factors described above.

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Income Tax Returns for AY 2020-21: Ready Referencer

With the extended time limit for filing of Income Tax Return (for AY 2020-21), u/s. 139(1), without late fees, for Non-Audit cases and for Non-Corporate assessees of 31st December 2020 fast approaching, given below is a quick guide for ready reference of some key changes that have been made in the respective Income tax return forms for this year.

Further, the conditions and features for eligibility of forms that are applicable for filing the correct income tax returns are also specified as follows:

Key Procedural Changes:

  • ITR 1 to ITR 4 can be filed using PAN or Aadhar by Individuals.
  • The submitted ITR forms display the ITR-V with a watermark ‘Not Verified’ until the same is verified either electronically by EVC or by sending the same via post after manual signing.
  • The unverified form ITR-V will not contain any income, deduction and tax details. The unverified form will only contain basic information, E-filing Acknowledgement Number and Verification part.
  • The unverified acknowledgement is titled as ‘INDIAN INCOME TAX RETURN VERIFICATION FORM’ & final ITR-V is titled as ‘INDIAN INCOME TAX RETURN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT’.
  • Return filed in response to notice u/s. 139(9), 142(1), 148, 153A, and 153C must have DIN.
  • There is a separate disclosure for Bank accounts in case of Non-Residents who are claiming income tax refund and not having a bank account in India.

COVID related Changes:

  • The Government had extended the time limit for claiming tax deduction u/CH VIA to 31st July 2020, and the details of the same need to be reported in Schedule DI (details of Investment).
  • The time limit for investing the proceeds or capital gains in other eligible assets, so as to claim exemptions u/s 54/ 54B/ 54F/ 54EC, had been extended to 30th September 2020.
  • Penal interest u/s. 234A @ 1% p.m., where the payments were due between 20-03-20 to 29-06-20 and such amounts were paid on or before 30-06-20, had been reduced to 75%, vide ordinance dated 31-03-20.
  • Period of forceful stay in India, beginning from quarantine date or 22-03-20 in any other case up to 31-03-20, is to be excluded, for the purpose of determining residential status in India.[1]

Consequences of Late filing of Return of Income:

  • Late Fees u/s. 234F of INR. 5,000 up to 31.12.20 and INR. 10,000 up to 31.03.21. In case of total income up to 5 Lacs, the penalty is INR. 1,000.
  • Penal Interest u/s. 234A @ 1% per month
  • Reduced to 75%. vide Ordinance dated 31.03.20, where the payments were due between 20.03.20 to 29.06.20, and such amounts were paid on or before 30.06.20.
  • Vide CBDT Notification dt 24.06.2020, no interest u/s 234A if Self-Assessment tax liability is less than 1 Lac and the same has been paid before the original due date.
  • In case of a belated return, loss under any head of Income (except unabsorbed depreciation) cannot be carried forwarded.
  • Deduction claims u/s. 10A, 10B, 80-IA, 80-IB, etc would not be allowed.

Consequences of Late filing of Return of Income:

  • Late Fees u/s. 234F of INR. 5,000 up to 31.12.20 and INR. 10,000 up to 31.03.21. In case of total income up to 5 Lacs, the penalty is INR. 1,000.
  • Penal Interest u/s. 234A @ 1% per month
  • Reduced to 75%. vide Ordinance dated 31.03.20, where the payments were due between 20.03.20 to 29.06.20, and such amounts were paid on or before 30.06.20.
  • Vide CBDT Notification dt 24.06.2020, no interest u/s 234A if Self-Assessment tax liability is less than 1 Lac and the same has been paid before the original due date.
  • In case of a belated return, loss under any head of Income (except unabsorbed depreciation) cannot be carried forwarded.
  • Deduction claims u/s. 10A, 10B, 80-IA, 80-IB, etc would not be allowed.

Vide CBDT Notification dt 24.06.2020, no interest u/s 234A if Self-Assessment tax liability is less than 1 Lac and the same has been paid before the original due date.

  1. Section 5A: Apportionment of income between spouses governed by the Portuguese Civil Code.
  2.  115BBDA: Tax on dividend from companies exceeding Rs. 10 Lakhs; 115BBE: Tax on unexplained credits, investment, money, etc. u/s. 68 or 69 or 69A or 69B or 69C or 69D.
  3. Inserted in sec 139(1) by Act No. 23 of 2019, w.e.f. 1-4-2020:

Provided also that a person referred to in clause (b), who is not required to furnish a return under this sub-section, and who during the previous year:

  • has deposited an amount or aggregate of the amounts exceeding one crore rupees in one or more current accounts maintained with a banking company or a co-operative bank; or
  • has incurred expenditure of an amount or aggregate of the amounts exceeding two lakh rupees for himself or any other person for travel to a foreign country; or
  • has incurred expenditure of an amount or aggregate of the amounts exceeding one lakh rupees towards consumption of electricity; or
  • fulfils such other conditions as may be prescribed,

Shall furnish a return of his income on or before the due date in such form and verified in such manner and setting forth such other particulars, as may be prescribed.

4. Section 57: Deduction against income chargeable under the head “Income from other sources”.

5. Schedule DI: Investment eligible for deduction against income (Ch VIA deductions) to be bifurcated between paid in F.Y.19-20 and during the period 01-04-20 to 31-07-20.

6.High-value Transaction: Annual Cash deposit exceeding Rs. 1 crore or Foreign travel expenditure exceeding Rs. 2 Lakhs, Annual electricity expenditure exceeding Rs. 1 Lakh.
7.Schedule 112A: From the sale of equity share in a company or unit of equity- oriented fund or unit of a business trust on which STT is paid under Section 112A.

8. 115AD(1)(iii) proviso: for Non-Residents – from the sale of equity share in a company or unit of equity-oriented fund or unit of a business trust on which STT is paid under Section 112A.
9. Section 40(ba): any payment of interest, salary, bonus, commission or remuneration paid to a member in case of Association of Person (AOP) or Body of Individual (BOI).

10. Section 90 & 90A: Foreign tax credit in cases where there is a bilateral agreement; Section 91: Foreign tax credit in cases of no agreement between the countries.

[1] Circular No 11 of 2020 dated 08th May 2020.

References

Image Credits: Photo by Markus Winkler from Pexels

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