Critical small projects too will get CCI push

Written by Arun S | Sunny Verma | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 18 2012, 06:04am hrs
Not only projects above R1,000 crore in size, but even smaller ones with national/strategic importance will get a push from the new Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI).

According to official sources, although the CCI will focus on fast-tracking clearances for projects above the R1,000-crore threshold, a parallel process is on to augment the capacity of the committee so that it can, over a short period of time, expand its ambit and help expedite even other projects.

The Cabinet secretariat coordinating the effort will soon open discussions on this with central ministries to compile a list of such important projects and the reasons for delays.

However, state government-related projects may not be included to avoid possible allegations of central interference, sources added. Last week, the Union Cabinet approved establishing a CCI chaired by the Prime Minister. Originally, it was proposed to be christened as National Investment Board (NIB).

According to the ministry of statistics, as of July, 198 projects of over R1,000 crore, originally entailing an investment of R6,36,098 crore, have been revised upwards to R7,38,125 crore due to delays and cost over-runs. Of these, 81 projects have been delayed. Power projects were the most in number at 30, followed by railways and petroleum (14 each). The finance ministry is talking to lenders and developers to verify amounts lent to these projects and find where they are stuck.

Though there are various figures ranging from R1.5 lakh crore to R9 lakh crore riding on these projects under different lists, the finance ministry wants to find out if there is a mention of the same project in these (and the amount involved) in the lists more than once due to multiple reasons, inflating the figure. The exercise is also aimed at pinning down the responsibility for the delays, the sources said.

These inputs, along with those already being compiled by the statistics ministry, will then be regularly passed to the Cabinet secretariat. The updated inputs to the CCI will also include those collected by the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC) through its Investment Tracking System that keeps a tab on all PSU projects with investments of over R1000 crore.

The Department of Financial Services in the finance ministry is also monitoring nationally important large private sector projects in this regard by coordinating with public and private sector banks as well as industry bodies.

In the mean time, apprehensive over the effectiveness of the CCI, the industry has raised a demand for a separate infrastructure ministry.

Vinayak Chatterjee, head of the CII National Taskforce on Regulatory Framework in Infrastructure and Chairman, Feedback Infrastructure Services, said in order to meet the $1 trillion target of investment in infrastructure during the 12 th Five Year Plan period of 2012-17, it was important to set up a dynamic infrastructure ministry by combining different departments.

CCI has been there for eight years and has not done much. NIB, as originally envisaged, would have been more effective. It is now time to set up an infrastructure ministry as done by countries such as Japan, Israel and France, for attracting investment as well as to sort out pre- and post-permission related issues, he said.