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India Spends Record $18 Billion to Develop Roads as Elections Loom By

India invested a record 1.16 trillion rupees ($18 billion) in the financial year ended March, to develop highways and improve road connectivity across the nation, according to a statement from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration spent 44 percent more than a year ago on building roads. The government plans to construct 83,677 kilometers (52,005 miles) of roads by 2022 to boost economic growth and employment, under its $106 billion Bharatmala infrastructure development plan.

The government is rushing to enact policies that will boost employment opportunities in Asia's third-largest economy before elections next year. Modi swept to power in May 2014 with the biggest electoral mandate in three decades after promising to create 10 million jobs each year for the country's burgeoning youth population.

"The renewed focus on road building will continue to improve connectivity thereby enhancing the overall efficiency in the economy," said Shubhada M Rao, chief economist at Yes Bank Ltd. "Focus on road building will also help employment generation."

The administration awarded a total of 17,055 kilometers of orders in year ended March, around 7 percent more from a year ago, according to the statement. Construction of roads last fiscal increased to 9,829 kilometers from 8,231 kilometers a year earlier.

The breakneck pace of highway projects has resulted in swelling of order books of most road developers to an all-time high, IIFL Wealth Management analyst Alok Deora said. They "will ensure strong topline" and earnings growth in current and next financial years, Deora said. Road developers such as Dilip Buildcon Ltd., Ashoka Buildcon Ltd., Sadbhav Infrastructure Project Ltd. rallied on Monday.

National Highways Authority of India on March 31 said it awarded road projects totaling 1.22 trillion rupees in last financial year. Tendering and projects awarding activity picked after the government announced the 'Bharatmala' program, NHAI said in a statement.

India constructed 26.9 kilometer of roads daily in the year to March 31.

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