PM's team gets cracking: Quick reprieve for 30 stuck infra projects, more to follow

Written by Timsy Jaipuria | Subhash Narayan | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 26 2013, 09:25am hrs
In a bid to reboot the economy, the Congress-led UPA government has decided to adopt a carefully calibrated approach to boost the investment climate by clearing a host of infrastructure projects.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will chair a meeting of key infrastructure sector ministers on Friday, would identify 30 infrastructure projects for quick action by the government.

The idea is not to take up too many projects and have a focused and pragmatic approach for fast-track clearances of a host of projects.

Highly placed sources in the Planning Commission told FE that the PMO has already been provided a list of more than 500 projects with investment potential of over Rs 15 lakh crore that are stuck due to delays in statutory clearances at state and central levels.

Once a smaller group of projects from these are identified, it would be taken up by a high-level group of officials constituted by the PMO for identifying bottlenecks and getting clearances on a fast-track basis before the matter is brought before the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) for final approval, the source added.

It is expected that preference would be given to projects where some investment has already been made or where some groundwork has started so that clearances result in immediate progress and investment inflows. At the Friday's meeting, ministries of road, power, coal, aviation, steel, coal, ports, railway and petroleum are also expected to identify projects for faster action that are of relevance for achieving annual targets for 2013-14.

Projects such as the much-delayed Orissa and Chhattisgarh ultra mega power projects (UMPP) are among the contenders that could see swift government action. Even, clearance of 14 coal blocks for offer under the government dispensation route is also to be taken up on an urgent basis so that immediate steps are taken to bring these under production to meet the growing requirement of the power sector.

The finance ministry has also prepared a list of about 200 projects where banks have an exposure of close to Rs 25,000 crore, but are stuck due to uncertainty about fuel linkages.

Also road projects in states such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are pending. In these projects, the delays are because of land acquisition, environmental clearance, mining clearance and utility shifting.

The oil ministry is also likely to push for clearance of more areas for oil and gas exploration by companies such as ONGC, Cairn India and Reliance in the KG Basin area of the Andhra coast.

Goa's greenfield Mopa airport, along with a push for several airport projects in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh are also to be put forward by aviation ministry.

The Centre is going full steam to realise project bottleneck's as it is important to lift investment sentiments in the country and growth. After falling to less to a level of 4.8% in the last quarter of 2012-13 fiscal, the growth projection of different government agencies for current fiscal is also not encouraging ranging between 5.5 to 6%.

Moreover, the free fall of rupee has put further pressure on country's current account deficit and interest rate scenario remains unchanged. In this environment, the Centre feels only a pick-up in domestic investment would create necessary grounds for restoring growth in the economy.

Along with the meeting being convened by the PMO, a group of officers has been constituted under the Cabinet secretary to identify bottlenecks and take steps to remove hurdles for projects on week-by-week basis in cooperation with officials of state governments. The project monitoring group will work closely with the CCI.