FE Editorial : Getting the NIB to write
After environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh protested vociferously, however, the rechristened NIB—it’s now called the Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI)—doesn’t have these overriding powers. It will be involved in coordination between various line ministries whose powers will remain undisturbed, in fixing deadlines for clearances, and so on. More details of the exact working structure are yet to be notified, but the fact that Natarajan said all her ministry’s concerns had been addressed does tell its own story. The latest letter from steel minister Beni Prasad Verma to Natarajan on the huge delays in clearances to public sector SAIL is the most recent instance of delays at the ministry’s end. Critics have also pointed out that the CCI is very similar, in composition and structure, to the older Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure where, despite it being around for so many years, large infrastructure projects continued to get bogged down in delays.
That said, a lot depends on the attitude of the principal actors. Till Chidambaram became finance minister, for example, the finance ministry was seen as leading the anti-reform brigade with its retrospective taxation and lack of progress on the GST. Within the last few months, the same policy-paralysed government, similarly, has cleared FDI in single- and multi-brand retail, has made large cuts in the base price for the 2G auctions, announced a 42% discount in Hindustan Copper prices before the divestment and made big moves on Aadhar-linked payments, albeit for the politically easier ones. The CCI, in other words, has had a poor start, but the government may just be able to make it work.
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