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Modi seeks funding to build smarter Indian cities post Covid-19

He looks to develop tech and transport to address growing urbanisation

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"We are looking at a future where a major chunk of education, healthcare, shopping, may happen online," said Mr Modi, adding that "our cities need to be ready".

New Delhi

INDIA'S Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to attract foreign investment to modernise India's urban centres as the world's second-most-populous nation rebuilds its economy after the novel coronavirus pandemic halted activity.

Covid-19 has given governments the chance to accelerate the "process of making cities more liveable for people", Mr 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," he said. "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 metres each year till 2030 with more than 40 per cent of the population expected to live in cities, said the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

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The South Asian nation has completed work on two-thirds of its planned US$30 billion worth of projects on building a hundred smart cities, Mr Modi said.

The New Economy Forum is organised by Bloomberg Media Group, a division of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

While 31 per cent 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 policymakers.

Investments in urban infrastructure can help shore up Asia's third-largest economy, which has slipped into an unprecedented recession after its Covid-19 lockdown, said a Reserve Bank of India report.

To address the growing urbanisation, Mr Modi's government has introduced programmes 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 two years.

Around 1,000 kilometres of railway lines that are part of a project to build suburban train systems in 27 cities are also expected to be completed before 2022, he said.

"If you are looking to invest in urbanisation, India has exciting opportunities for you," Mr Modi said.BLOOMBERG

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