Krushna Chandra Satapathy
espite the current economic slowdown nationally, Odisha remains a strong economy, just as it has remained over the years. Gross State Domestic Product is exhibiting promising growth, while revenue surplus has sustained over the past 15 years. Odisha has consistently maintained remarkable economic parameters under Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, making it a strong economy with holistic approach of growth vis-a-vis controlled financial regulations. This is attributed to the legislature and bureaucracy of the state working in tandem, balancing aspirations of the people of the state and simultaneously agreeing to financial prudence.
Being a stable economy, Odisha is exploring all possible ideas that would usher in development. Public Private Partnership (PPP) is one such mechanism the state has adopted where private investment in public infrastructure development or services is encouraged with the objective of leveraging risk and harnessing expertise of private partners.
With this objective in mind, the state formed the Directorate of Public Private Partnership under the department of finance. The objective of the directorate is to conceptualise viable infrastructural projects, including social projects of health and education, where synergy of the public and private partners will contribute to the success of projects.
PPP has been considered a panacea for the growth and development of the country as a whole and state in particular where large infrastructure development is possible for public good by private partner. The expenditure incurred by private partner is met with a concession agreement with the public entity where the private partner is legally allowed to levy a fee or toll or a service charge kept low to suit the ability and willingness of public to pay. Sometimes different models are also adopted keeping in view priority objectives.
Roads such as the highway from Sambalpur to Rourkela have been laid under PPP mode. Similarly, a number of projects in housing, market complexes, storage godowns, city bus services, street lighting, foot-over bridges and water supply have been carried out by means of PPP. In the health sector some operational and maintenance works on PHCs have been carried out through PPP. The diversification also includes smaller projects such as food parks, info parks and bigger projects such as solid waste management and construction of heritage hotels and even construction of ports.
Considering the perils of industrialisation, new projects under PPP focus on non-conventional sectors such as solar energy projects which encompass huge solar parks and rooftop projects. Rooftop solar projects have been successfully experimented with at several places in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. Rooftops of government establishments have been used for installation of solar panels under the projects. The plans to expand the programme to other places is under way. In the health sector, too, the vision depends on providing affordable quality healthcare to the public at their doorsteps.
Similarly, in education, the role of private players can be pivotal as far as quality of teaching is concerned. The government recently announced English curriculum in Odia medium schools from Class I. It is the quality of teaching rather than the infrastructure that determines the productivity of the state-run schools.
Several PPP models have been implemented successfully across the globe and these have transformed the education system. We, too, aspire for a workforce to emerge from future generations that can transform the state. Rural children are as capable as those from urban private schools in terms of creativity or intelligence. Our motto should not be restricted to, ‘Education for All’; we should also explore possibilities of ‘Equal Education for All’. For this private partners should come forward with viable models.
–The writer is Director, Directorate of Public Private Partnership, and Joint Secretary, Government of Odisha.