In The Armchair

3 Billion

Posted in India by Armchair Guy on July 3, 2010

New Delhi’s IGI airport has a new wing constructed at a cost of $3 billion.  The politicial establishment fell over itself with glee while inaugurating the wing.  The words used by the media to describe the new wing were ‘swanky’ and ‘world class’.  Let’s look at what swanky means, according to Merriam-Webster:

swanky [ˈswæŋkɪ]adj swankier, swankiest Informal

1. expensive and showy; stylish a swanky hotel

2. boastful or conceited

In comparison, ISRO’s annual budget is $1 billion, and this is after ISRO has proven itself repeatedly over the last 20 years.  According to Wikipedia the Delhi Metro, one of the most useful infrastructure undertakings ever, is supposed to have cost about $3 billion for Phase I and II, moves over 1 million commuters every day, and runs at a profit without any government funding.  In contrast, the Delhi Airport moves about 23 million passengers a year, and the new terminal’s capacity is 34 million — about 10 to 15 times lower than the Delhi Metro.

Still, it’s good to spend on infrastructure that needs upgrading, and in fact the swank factor might act as a bit of an advertisement of prowess (as it does in the case of some of China’s awe-inspiring but overly grand and unnecessarily expensive infrastructure). First impressions count and the first thing tourists see when they arrive in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games will be this terminal.

But does this really serve that purpose, or was this a knee-jerk reaction to the upcoming games? The shining, excited faces of our politicians are all well and good, but will we get our money’s worth from this in the long run? Or will it be a massive investment that is equally expensive to maintain, turning shabby in a few years? Time will tell.


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