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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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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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2021 Budget Impact on the Real Estate Sector

The Real Estate Sector has received an undeniable boost with the recommendations of the Union Budget of 2021. Projects like ‘Housing for All’ and ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ (PMAY) have always received emphasis under the Modi regime. Through the changes proposed to be implemented by the Union Budget of 2021, it is clear that measures like the granting of tax holidays for affordable housing and tax exemptions in the interest of migrant workers with regard to rental housing projects point towards the priority that the housing and Real Estate Sector enjoy in the current Union Government’s policy and execution scheme.  

Considering the unavoidable and unforeseeable fiscal deficit that struck the economy with the onset of the pandemic in 2020; the Finance Ministry had to tread judiciously with limited room for any big announcements under the Union Budget of 2021.  

 

The main standpoint with regard to the Real Estate sector that was observed was the policy of the government to promote and facilitate ‘Housing for All’ which entailed prioritizing and increasing access to and affordability of housing.  

The Budget of 2021 allotted Rs. 54,581 crores to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. 

  
Here is what the Real Estate gained in the Union Budget of 2021 

 

Increase in safe harbour limit for primary sale of residential units 

  • The safe harbour limit for the primary sale of residential units has been increased from 10% to 20% in order to increase the incentivisation of Real Estate developers and home buyers. 

Incentivising Affordable Housing 

  • In an instance of taking up a loan to purchase a house; the government had already allowed, in its 2019 Budget; a deduction of interest rate that amounted to a monetary sum of around Rs. 1.5 lakh to increase affordability and purchasing power. 
  •  This deduction in interest rates for housing loans is proposed to be extended further for another year- till March 31, 2022 in the current Budget policy. This would mean that the deduction of Rs. 1.5 lakh will continue to be available for loans that are taken up in order to purchase houses at affordable rates till March 31, 2022.  
  • To further advance the procurement and supply of affordable housing, the current Budget also proposed a year-long tax holiday for affordable housing projects till March 31, 2022.  
  • With an unprecedented rise in the number of migrants all across the country due to the pandemic; Nirmala Sitharaman has also advanced the action of allowing for a tax exemption for notified “Affordable Rental Housing Projects” in order to facilitate and encourage the supply of Affordable Renting Housing to these migrant workers.  

REITs 

  • Further, the Budget has also encouraged debt financing of InVITs and REITs by Foreign Portfolio Investors by according relevant amendments to legislations. These amendments would facilitate ease of financing to InVITs and REITs, consequently promoting greater funds for the real estate and infrastructure sectors.  
  • The Finance Ministry also went a step further and suggested the provision of advance tax liability to arise only after the payment or declaration of dividend. This move is aimed to eliminate the uncertainty that arose with an estimation of dividend income by shareholders for paying tax in advance. Further, the Finance Ministry has also proposed that tax on dividend income may be deducted at the more beneficial treaty rate, for Foreign Portfolio Investors.   

Infrastructure Development 

  • The Budget has also allotted revenue towards the development of infrastructure around the country. 702 kms of conventional metro is already operational, added to another 1,016 kms of metros and RRTS that is under construction in 27 cities across the country. 
  • Metro rail systems and access will now be provided at affordable and decreased prices, to increase access through the development of two new technologies- ‘MetroNeo’ and ‘MetroLite’ in Tier-2 cities and certain areas of Tier-1 cities. This is expected to increase efficiency and safety. 

Construction workers 
 

  • With an increase in the importance accorded towards the unorganised labour sector, the Finance Ministry has further proposed to initiate and introduce a portal to collect information on construction-workers, buildings and gigs, particularly for migrant labourers. This will promote insurance, housing, health and food policies for these migrant workers. 

 

Analysis  

 

A close analysis of the afore-mentioned changes proposed by the Union Budget undeniably brings out the Government’s intention to assist, promote and facilitate development and growth in the real estate sector.  The focus laid by the Government on Affordable Housing and its policies will undeniably cause growth in this sector. Additionally, the infrastructure initiatives in the Budget are also extremely beneficial and will provide a huge boost to the sector, allowing its growth and subsequent development.  

However, the current Budget policies revolving around the real estate sector have failed to accord with the additional demand levels that were anticipated by the stakeholders of the industry in order to sustain the growing demand for housing. To facilitate growth, efficient execution and time-bound implementation are crucial. Persistent focus and attention according to the policy of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ would promote the ease of doing business. The proposed level of expenditure on infrastructure by the Government on metro lines, roads, warehousing, ports, etc. is a move that is expected to give a boost to the economic GDP and hence, is commendable.  

Conclusion 

 

While the various measures proposed to be implemented in the real estate sector through the current Budget will positively impact an economy that is still grappling with the hit delivered by the COVID 19 pandemic, these changes and proposals also act as a mark of the industry’s transition from mere existence to actual growth. 

References 

1 Budget Speech | Union Budget. (indiabudget.gov.in) 

2 Budget 2021: Analysis. (freepressjournal.in) 

 

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

close analysis of the aforementioned changes proposed by the Union Budget undeniably brings out the Government’s intention to assist, promote and facilitate development and growth in the real estate sector.  The focus laid by the Government on Affordable Housing and its policies will undeniably cause growth in this sector. Additionally, the infrastructure initiatives in the Budget are also extremely beneficial and will provide a huge boost to the sector, allowing its growth and subsequent development.  

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