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Budget 2011: PM hints at infrastructure debt funds
February, 17th 2011

Dedicated infrastructure debt funds could make a debut in the forthcoming budget. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the government may make an announcement in this direction. "I think some discussions are going on... and most probably, I think the Finance Minister will outline something in that direction , Singh told media persons on Wednesday.

Physical infrastructure has emerged as the biggest constraint to the countrys attempts to achieve 9%-plus economic growth. India is ranked 86th out of 139 countries in quality of overall infrastructure, below other emerging countries such as China at 50 and Brazil at 62 in World Economic Forums 2010-11 global competitiveness index.

Singh said India needs to develop a corporate debt market to meet the projected investment of $1 trillion required to sustain the countrys economic growth rate in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-2017 ). More than 50% of this investment has to come from the private sector.

We must, I think, create a viable corporate debt market. I think that is the direction in which we must move, Singh said. He also said in addition to these steps, India needs to attract investment from foreign countries.

The Finance Ministry has already readied a draft framework for infrastructure debt funds, on the lines of venture capital funds, to tap investment from foreign insurance and pensions funds. It has initiated discussions with financial sector regulators on regulatory changes required for creation of such funds.

This structure would require changes in the rules governing external commercial borrowings (ECBs) as the current regime does not allow such borrowings by funds. While the Securities and Exchange Board of India will have to create a framework for registering these funds on the lines of venture capital funds, the Reserve Bank of India will have to spell out a capital adequacy framework for them.

Insurance and pension fund regulators will also need to tweak rules to ensure flow of funds from such domestic entities to these debt funds. The Planning Commission had also proposed to set up $11 billion infrastructure debt fund but the Finance Ministry favoured creation of multiple private funds.

A committee headed by HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh had also endorsed the idea of infrastructure funds and said they be allowed to re-finance up to 85% of outstanding debt of infrastructure projects. Additional avenues of financing are needed for infrastructure as the capacity of banks to fund infrastructure projects was limited. The maturity of bank deposits mostly ranges from three to five years.

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