• Journals should not be longer than 10 pages (double spaced, 12 point font)
• Journals are a chance for you to reflect upon what you have learnt. They are meant as aids to the journal process. Journals are NOT meant to be a summary of the readings or the discussions.
• There is no prescribed way to write a journal. However there are some pointers that may be useful to keep in mind.
a. Be introspective. Think about what you learnt in your project and during the readings. For instance, some journal might contain something like “I was unclear as to the exact state of infrastructure in India and was surprised to see how poor the state of infrastructure in India really was”. It is always good to bring out the personal element in your journal. You can also talk about your expectations, or your suggestions to topics that were not covered, but which you would have liked to see in the course.
b. Be reflective and analytical. Try to tie together the readings, or point out apparent contradictions in them. You don’t have to mention each and every reading in your journal, analytical thinking on even a single reading is admissible. A journal 1 entry might contain something like “it is clear from the newspaper article and the article on emerging challenges in India that the amount of investment needed in infrastructure in India is quite large. What is unclear however is whether increased financing alone will solve India’s infrastructure needs. Do we have adequate technical and managerial capabilities for building infrastructure? I feel this question is not adequately answered”. Here the author has tied together two readings and has analyzed them so as to identify a “gap” in the reading
c. Do not be afraid to be critical. There is nothing wrong in disagreeing with your head, your colleagues or the author of an article, provided you show justification for your line of reasoning. This is a very important skill to develop and I highly recommend that you try to do so in these journals. Again a sample Journal entry may contain something like “It is unclear to me why Ashwin paints such a depressing picture of infrastructure in India. I see these difficulties as challenges that will convince smart young engineering graduates to stay back and work in India. This can only be to India’s benefit. Also, If I look at the reforms and the rate at which they are being enacted, a lot of changes have occurred over the last few years and this has significantly improved India’s ability to construct world class infrastructure. For example…..”. Here the author disagrees with the instructor, but provides some justification for this.
You don’t have to be reflective, introspective and critical in every journal article. These are just three different hats that you might want to wear as you think about writing them. Skim through the readings, try and relate them to what we said in class and write up an open-ended an essay. Most of all, try to have fun doing this. Be creative and think of new ideas and emotions that you can express.
Sample Journal EntryThis week opened my eyes to several interesting issues related to infrastructure. All the readings indicate that India needs to invest in several billion dollars worth of infrastructure. This fact was well known given the nature of recent speeches made by the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and other officials from the Government of India. What I did not know however was the amount of financial investment that was flowing into India. I was surprised to learn from the readings (particularly Harris et al) that we have several public financing schemes, national privately financed funds, and international donor agencies that are plugging money into Indian infrastructure.
Synthesis of readingsThis led to me the following question – if so much money is flowing into Indian infrastructure, why are our roads still so bad? Why does it take so much time to travel – whether it is by road, rail or air? Why are airports so crowded? Why do we have so many power cuts? In short – what is happening to all this money that is coming in? This indicates to me that financing is just one part of the entire picture. One needs to know how to implement these projects on time, within budget and to good quality. This “capacity” is lacking in our current public administrative set-up and officials in charge of these projects do not have the requisite know-how to manage infrastructure development. There is also a large amount of red-tape in the Indian bureaucratic system of governance that slows down projects. I feel that it is because of these reasons that we do not see the results of financial flows into the infrastructure sector. As a result, it is probably time we concentrated on implementation of infrastructure as opposed to financing.
Analytical discussionBased on the above discussion, I have one critique of the readings. The chapter on Project Finance seemed to indicate that accurate financial models with risk mitigation techniques and a determination of a fair internal rate of return are the single most important set of tools for successful infrastructure development. I beg to differ. Financing, in my opinion, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful infrastructure development. Unless we pay attention to developing capacity to implement infrastructure – at the individual level by offering focused training programs, at the organizational level by design organizations with adequate levels of decentralization etc to take on infrastructure demand, at the field level by clearly demarcating roles and responsibilities and at the institutional and policy levels by providing appropriate performance incentives, pure financial inflows will be of no use. Assumptions made in a financial pro-forma are often different from what one encounters in the field. Therefore, unless a set of robust, “soft” institutional measures are devised to increase capacity and minimize risks, a mere financial model will not suffice as a tool to estimate and ensure the success of infrastructure development.