Projects and Projects Finance

USHERING A NEW WAVE OF REFORMS IN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT

INTRODUCTION

Cost and time overruns have long since plagued India’s infrastructure sector and given a bad name to public projects being executed in the country. According to a report[1] published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, as on November 1, 2021, 438 out of 1,681 central sector infrastructure projects have been affected by cost overruns, aggregating to Rs 4.34 lakh crore, and 539 projects are running behind their respective schedules. Such delays take a toll on the viability of projects. To mitigate this problem, the Central Vigilance Commission (“CVC”), Comptroller and Auditor General of India and NITI Aayog have long-advocated the need to revamp the procurement and project management procedures in India. The efforts of these premier institutions have culminated in the Ministry of Finance issuing the General Instructions on Procurement and Project Management on October 29, 2021 (“General Instructions”). By introducing provisions pertaining to additional methods of procurement, timely payment to contractors and reforms in the dispute resolution process, the General Instructions attempt to overhaul the manner in which projects are awarded and implemented by public authorities and project executing agencies (“PEA”).
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Overhaul of the ARC Framework – Need of the hour

In continuance of various measures to resolve the pile of non-performing assets (NPAs) in the financial sector, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has now turned its focus on the role and framework of Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) in being an important part of the solution. Even though the ARCs were in the game since enactment of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (“SARFAESI”), their performance has been sub-optimal and the recovery percentage abysmally low.[1]


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Recovery of Change in Law Impact – An Overdue Intervention

Introduction

Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are generally long-term contracts that are vulnerable to legislative or judicial interventions. These interventions have the potential to impact the cost of establishing or operating generation plants over the life of the PPA. In order to address this risk, PPAs (and many other long-term contracts) incorporate a provision for ‘Change in Law’, which seeks to provide a mechanism to compensate the affected party for increase in cost or decrease in revenues, occasioned by changes in rules/ regulations governing the setting up and operation of the generation plant.


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Rapid Metro Judgment - Reinforcing the Sanctity of Contracts and Public Good

The premise of project financing lies in financing of infrastructure projects undertaken by a special purpose vehicle (“Borrower”), the repayment of which is broadly dependent on the cash flows generated by the projects itself rather than the balance sheet of the Borrower or its promoter/sponsor. The onset of public private partnership (“PPP”) regime in the project financing space in India has been instrumental in implementation of multiple commercially viable projects. The PPP projects are projects based on a contract or concession agreement, between Government or statutory entity on one side and a private sector company on the other side, delivering public utility infrastructure services which can be availed on payment of user charges. It provides an opportunity for private sector participation in financing, designing, construction, operation and maintenance of public sector programme and projects. The licence to develop such projects is given by the statutory authority in various models like build, operate, transfer (BOT), build, develop, operate and transfer (BDOT), build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) and toll, operate and transfer (TOT). In most cases, PPPs combine the best of both worlds: the private sector with its resources, management skills and technology and the public sector with its regulatory actions and protection of public interest[1].
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The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the society in an unanticipated and unprecedented way. To contain its spread, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India vide its order dated March 24, 2020 directed closure of commercial and private establishments for a period of twenty one days. Immediately thereafter, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) issued an order dated March 25, 2020 directing the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to take action as per the said MHA order (including suspension of tolling operations on the toll plazas) and added that prevailing condition may be treated as ‘force majeure’ under the concession agreements executed by NHAI with the developers.

MoRTH thereafter directed NHAI to resume toll collections from April 20, 2020. However, the suspension of toll operations until April 20, 2020, the lockdown period thereafter and the steep fall of the traffic plying on the national highways, has significantly impacted the entire transportation industry, exposing developers to high risk and financial distress with no visibility of normalcy in the near future.


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After more than three months of lockdown, there is no denying that the Indian economy has been impacted. This is also evidenced by the stimulus packages announced by the Government of India, in an attempt to protect and revive the economy. With most people staying indoors 24*7, electricity consumption in the commercial sector was also impacted initially, although the levels have been restored in a phased manner. This coupled with different lockdown strategies in different states, is also continuing to impact business at large. Taking into account the impact of COVID-19 across the globe, and the lockdown in the country, the government of India and certain central agencies have been providing clarification and issuing memorandums/notifications to guide the infrastructure industry, specifically the renewable energy (RE) sector, and RE projects in terms of COVID-19 being declared as a force majeure (FM).


Continue Reading COVID-19 Cloud Cover: Not so sunny times for renewable energy sector!

Covid-19 – Navigating choppy waters for Port Projects

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedent crisis throughout the world and has caused widespread disruptions in normal operations across industries and life in general. In India, the National Disaster Management Authority determined that India was threatened by the spread of Covid-19 pandemic and took steps to prevent the spread of the pandemic in the country under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. On March 24, 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs declared a 21-day lockdown under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with effect from March 25, 2020. Such lockdown has been subsequently extended three times by the Ministry of Home Affairs and now remains in force till May 31, 2020.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has been issuing guidelines to determine the operation of essential and non-essential services during the period of lockdown and has attempted to restrict movement of persons throughout the country. The guidelines have caused States to close their borders and even movement within a State has been prohibited, unless it is in relation to an essential service. At the time of the first order of lockdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs excluded the ‘operation of seaports for cargo movement, relief and evacuation and their related operational organisations’ from the ambit of the lockdown. However, due to the disruptions in the supply chain, the inter-state and intra-state movement restrictions and the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an impact on operational as well as under construction port projects.
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Covid-19 - Flight Plan for Indian Aviation Industry

Covid-19 crisis has severely impacted almost all industries but disruptions in the airline industry is so profound that it is assumed to be greater than the combined crises of 9/11 and the 2008 global financial put together. The Government of India (acting through DGCA) (“GoI”) has vide its (i) order dated March 23, 2020 passed under Section 88(1) of the Aircraft Act, 1934; and (ii) orders dated March 26, 2020 and April 14, 2020 directed inter alia all aircraft operators to suspend the operations of all the domestic flights and all scheduled international commercial passenger services until May 3, 2020. The forward air travel bookings are far outweighed by the cancellations. Air travel demand is drying up in ways that are unprecedented with no semblance of normalcy on the horizon. For an industry which is already stressed, Covid-19 has only accelerated the process of bankruptcy filing by several companies (like Virgin Australia and Air Mauritius). Those airline companies which are still in business have also suffered misfortunes as coronavirus-forced lockdowns have kept their fleets grounded. Per the market sources, apart from the pay cut, several airline companies (Indigo, Go Airlines) have also taken other cost cutting measures including furloughs.
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The idea of Mumbai Metro - Is the world developing or dying?

The Mumbai metro project (“Metro Project”) was conceptualised to develop an efficient and sustainable urban transport system in the financial capital of the country, involving  a significant investment of USD 2,500 million.[1] Every day some 80,00,000 commuters use the city’s suburban rail system, enabled through more than 2,800 trains a day. The network is severely overcrowded during peak hours when the number of passengers exceed the network’s carrying capacity by more than four times, leading to numerous safety hazards.[2]

Last year witnessed a massive protest for saving the Aarey milk colony located in suburban Goregaon (“Aarey’), a green belt with over 5,00,000 trees, a rarity in the concrete city. The construction of a metro car depot on the flood plains of the Mithi river at Aarey for expansion of metro services in the city received much wrath from environment activists, citizens and even courts for cutting down 2,600 trees overnight. While there is a stay on cutting more trees until the matter is sub-judice, the construction work of the Metro Project was not stopped, until the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic, COVID-19 or Coronavirus.
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Interplay of Data Analytics, AI and Infrastructure Investment

Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics

The global race to augment capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) is intensifying in both advanced and emerging economies. From optimising power generation and transmission, diagnosis and drug discovery, improving learning environment, enhancing design and functionality, to automation in logistics, AI will not only continue to evolve but possibly surpass human intelligence in the near future. Today’s digital age is overflowing with valuable data which if appropriately analyzed can predict results, making data analytics an indispensable tool for any corporate to sustain in the economy.
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