(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to attract foreign investment to modernize India’s urban centers as the world’s second-most-populous nation rebuilds its economy after the coronavirus pandemic halted activity.
Covid-19 has given governments the chance to accelerate the “process of making cities more livable for people,” Modi said in his speech at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum on Tuesday. “We are looking at a future where a major chunk of education, healthcare, shopping, may happen online. Our cities need to be ready for the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.”
India plans to continue raising funds in areas including urban technology and transport, he added. The country will have to develop up to 800 million square meters each year till 2030 with more than 40% of population expected to live in cities, according to Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
The South Asian nation has completed work on two-thirds of its planned $30-billion worth of projects on building a 100 smart cities, Modi said.
The New Economy Forum is organized by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
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While 31% of India’s 1.3 billion people currently live in cities, migration from rural areas in search of jobs has strained already creaky public amenities, posing challenges for policy makers. Investments in urban infrastructure can help shore up Asia’s third-largest economy which has slipped into an unprecedented recession after its covid lockdown, according to a Reserve Bank of India report.
To address the growing urbanization, Modi’s government has introduced programs to build houses for poor, improve infrastructure, boost public transport and provide clean drinking water. The initiatives have also brought investment opportunities and need for new technology.
India is planning an affordable rental housing initiative as part of its post-Covid rebuilding, the prime minister said, and will also complete construction of 10 million urban homes in the next couple of years. Around 1,000 kilometers of railway lines that are part of project to build suburban train systems in 27 cities is also expected to be completed before 2022, he said.
“If you are looking to invest in urbanization, India has exciting opportunities for you,” Modi said.
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