Centre empowers roadmin to help expedite projects

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 28 2014, 06:13am hrs
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday decided to empower the ministry of road transport and highways to make changes in the model concession agreement (MCA) as may be required from time to time and to decide the mode of delivery of projects. This means that the ministry would now be able to make expedient decisions on whether to use the PPP route BoT (toll) or BoT (annuity) or the conventional EPC model for award of a project, depending economic conditions and viability of the project.

Also, decisions like allowing stake sales by a trouble developer or for even premium rescheduling to salvage a project can be taken at the level of the bureaucrats. Since no CCEA approval would be required for these, the process could become speedier and smoother and help preempt projects from plunging into crises.

A committee headed by the Cabinet secretary will decide if there is any amendment (needed) in the MCA, communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said after the CCEA meeting. The ministry was facing problems as regards to timely award of contracts. There was a difficulty in ascertaining how the project can be delivered. Now the ministry has been empowered to take a decision in this regard, Prasad said.

Against the ambitious target for award of 9,500 kms of road for FY13, only 1,116 kms could be awarded in the year by the NHAI and only 1,436 kms against the target of 4,030 kms for FY14. On analysis after consultations with all the stakeholders in the sector, it has been concluded that this shortfall is primarily attributable to an overall economic slowdown resulting in lack of availability of debt and equity in the market, said a statement issued after the CCEA meeting.

In recent months, the NHAI has increasingly resorted to the EPC model for award for road projects given the tepid investor interest in PPP projects.

CIL, ONGC & NHPC stake sales decision deferred

The CCEA deferred the decision on stake sales in three public sector behemoths, Coal India, ONGC and NHPC, as finance minister Arun Jaitley, away in Mumbai, could not attend the meeting. Officials said that the proposals could now be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting.

The Centre plans to garner R58,425 crore from stake sales in PSUs and residual stake sale in Hindustan Zinc and Balco in FY15. The disinvestment road map includes a 10% stake in Coal India, around 11% stake in NHPC and 5% in ONGC. Combined, the share sale in the three companies can earn the exchequer as much as around R44,500 crore.

Government sources told FE that the merchant bankers for the NHPC stake sale were shortlisted on Wednesday. We have shortlisted HSBC, Edelweiss, and IDFC. The final approval has yet to be given by the finance m, a senior finance ministry official said.

The disinvestment department has invited bids to appoint merchant bankers for a 5% stake sale in Rural Electrification and Power Finance. The two companies gave presentations to power minister Piyush Goyal this week on their preparation for the stake sales. The presentations were a part of the initial disinvestment process whereby a company, after being notified by the DoD, gives a presentation to its nodal ministry.

The first could be for a 5% stake sale in SAIL as early as next month, followed by CIL and NHPC, once the Cabinet approval is given.

Cap of 1 cylinder/month lifted

The Cabinet on Wednesday lifted the restriction of one subsidised cylinder per month for households, while number of subsidised cylinders annually would continue to be 12.

The government has now decided that while 12 subsidized LPG cylinders per annum will continue to be supplied to all domestic consumers, there will be no separate monthly restriction of one cylinder per month. This changes the earlier decision taken on February this year and removes the restriction imposed that ordinarily one cylinder be given to each beneficiary every month, said a government statement.

This decision would alleviate difficulties faced by the genuine LPG consumers as consumption of LPG cylinders is never exactly one per month. This change would meet their genuine requirements subject to their annual entitlement of subsidised cylinders and could have a marginal negative impact on the governments subsidy bill.

Cooperation with Japan in health, training of medics

India has decided to cooperate with Japan in the areas of health, training of medical professionals and traditional medicine and would sign an agreement of cooperation.

An official statement after the meeting said that the Cabinet has also approved swapping of save our soul (SOS) village land measuring 2,397 sqm with that of Airport Authority of Indias equivalent airport land.

The land swap would facilitate construction of hangars at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati.