NEW DELHI: The finance ministry is helping the National Highway Authority to come out of the debt trap and become financially viable, as the body has seen its debt mounting to Rs 3.07 lakh crore on March 2021, up from Rs 74,742 crore in March 2017, seeing a four-fold increase.
According to sources in the finance ministry, the NHAI had sought additional funds to come out of the financial mess, however, given the curb on expenditure, it had to resort to external commercial borrowing also. Overall, the NHAI has borrowed additional Rs 58,000 crore in last one year. So, on the direction of the PMO, finance Ministry is helping it out.
“Because of Covid there is surge in debt. While this is not possible to increase funding for them, the department may help them out with infrastructure financing. Together we are finding out ways to make more finances available. There are many options under discussion,” a senior finance ministry official said.
Since 2017, the NHAI has availed of external borrowing to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore.
The official added that NHAI paid Rs 18,840 crore as interest in 2020-21 and this is likely to increase substantially in next two-three years. In fact the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture also has raised concerns over NHAI’s debt burden, which has been lingering on since 2019.
Even highways minister Nitin Gadkari has admitted in a written reply to the Parliament that NHAI’s debt was an issue and he blamed many ongoing litigation responsible for the mess, involving Rs 90,000 crore.
The minister also said there are 140 arbitration cases pending before various arbitral tribunals with Rs 91,875 crore claims from contractors and Rs 44,600 crore counter claims from the NHAI. Another 240 cases are in courts with claims of Rs 21,600 crore.
Rs 3.07 lakh cr Total debt on NHAI as on March 2021
Rs 58,000 cr Additional borrowing in last one year
Rs 18,840 cr NHAI paid interest in 2020-21