Rs 3 lakh cr boost for infra development: Cabinet OKs DFI, govt to leverage pension, sovereign funds

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Updated: Mar 16, 2021 5:40 PM

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced that the Union Cabinet has cleared the setting up the Development Finance Institution (DFI) as announced during the Union Budget 2021.

CPSE assets sale to bring about paradigm shift in infrastructure: Finance Minister Nirmala SitharamanThe government expects marquee pension funds, sovereign funds to come in through the DFI.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced that the Union Cabinet has cleared the setting up the Development Finance Institution (DFI), as announced during the Union Budget 2021, with an initial capital infusion will stand at Rs 20,000 crore. “Through this, we expect to raise a considerable amount through the market,” the Nirmala Sithraman said. She added that the DFI is expected to raise up to Rs 3 lakh crore in the next few years. The government expects to rope in marquee pension funds, sovereign funds to come in through the DFI to fund infra projects in the country. The bill will now be tabled in Parliament during the current Budget Session. 

DFI is expected to raise long-term funds for infrastructure development in the country. The Finance Minister, today, said that the initial grant to the DFI will be Rs 5,000 crore and additional increments of grants will be made within the limit of Rs 5,000 crore. “Government is also planning to issue some securities to the DFI by which the cost of funding will come down,” Nirmala Sithraman said. “All this will help DFI leverage initial capital and draw funds from various sources will also have a positive impact on bonds markets.”

The board of the DFI will comprise persons of eminence. The Finance Minister further stated that incentives for the board will be market-driven. The Chief Executive of the board will have a higher age limit and a longer tenure. The board of DFI will decide on the merger of India Infrastructure Finance Company into the DFI. The government of India will have 100% ownership of the DFI, once set up. However, the ownership will come down to 26% over the years. 

“Access to long term financing was the need of the hour for the infrastructure sector and decision will provide the required thrust to the infrastructure sector keeping in view the National Infrastructure Pipeline,” Dibyanshu, Partner, Khaitan & Co told Financial Express Online. “The tax benefits for 10 years and stamp duty together with the thrust being provided by the government should solicit interest from pension funds and sovereign wealth funds who are key players in this space,” he added.

DFIs are not new to India. Earlier, IFCI, ICICI and IDBI have been set up as DFI’s, according to Arun Kumar, Partner, IndusLaw. “Hopefully, the present growth factors of the economy will ensure that National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) does become the new age DFI and has at its core the requirements for longevity and patient financing that core infrastructure sectors like power, highways, telecom etc. require. Of course, aspects around transparency, accountability and governance too become critical when we expect longevity,” Kumar said.

Earlier, during her Union Budget speech, the Finance Minister had announced the plans to set up the DFI as a provider, enabler and catalyst for infrastructure financing. The ambition of the DFI is to have a lending portfolio of Rs 5 lakh crores in three years time.

Post the Union Budget announcement, HDFC Securities had said that the setting up of a DFI would be a negative for sovereign-owned NBFCs such as PFC and REC. “A better alternative would have been to re-purpose existing sector-specific sovereign-owned NBFCs with a broader infra mandate,” HDFC Securities had said.

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