NIB on its way, to have powers of approval

Written by D K Singh | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 29 2012, 11:09am hrs
P ChidambaramP Chidambaram, Finance minister
Decks have been cleared for setting up of the National Investment Board (NIB) to expedite projects entailing investment of Rs 1,000 crore and above. To be given both monitoring and approval powers, the body could, however, be called the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) if the Cabinet so prefers.

The Cabinet Secretariat was learnt to have received a Cabinet note on the proposed body from the finance ministry on Tuesday and it is likely to be taken up for consideration by the Union Cabinet shortly.

Official sources said that while the NIB would initially deal with infrastructure projects only, there is a proposal to expand its mandate to include manufacturing sector projects as well. The finance ministry has left it to the Cabinet to decide whether it should be called the NIB or CCI.

Regardless of the nomenclature, it would be a Cabinet committee headed by the Prime Minister and modelled on the lines of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure. The ministry of environment & forests, which was the first to raise an alarm over the proposal to set up the NIB, and other ministries concerned would be part of the proposed body. It would be housed in either the Cabinet Secretariat or the Prime Ministers Office (PMO), sources said.

While the PMO gave its nod to an NIB last week, some complications had arisen with the Cabinet Secretariat arguing that giving it the powers to override decisions of other ministries would require many changes in the transaction of business rules of the government. It, therefore, suggested a CCI, to be assisted by a committee of secretaries.

There was also a debate over whether the proposed body should be given the power of approval of projects or vested with monitoring powers only. All these issues were said to have been sorted out in the past few days, leading to the finalisation of the Cabinet note.

Some ministries and departments had expressed reservations over setting of a timeline or deadline for them to make decisions, failing which the NIB would take over the matter. Sources said that it has now been decided to have different timelines depending on the ministries and the nature of projects. For instance, if there is a nuclear power project, more time has to be given for the decision-making process to be completed.

What appears to have swung the deal in favour of the NIB an idea conceived by finance minister P Chidambaram was the strong political backing of the Congress to it. Senior leaders like Digvijay Singh had brushed off objections of naysayers to support the NIB.