A meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, earlier this month, to discuss an institutional mechanism to track stalled investment projects, both in the public and private sectors and to remove the implementation bottlenecks in these projects on a fast-track basis.
The Prime Minister directed that a special cell be created immediately in the Cabinet Secretariat. This Cell would be in the nature of a Project Monitoring Group for all large projects, both public and private and would pro-actively pursue them so that these investment projects are commissioned on time. Suitable officers may be identified at the earliest and priority projects may be quickly identified to be taken for tracking. The Administrative Ministries, in consultation with the Finance Ministry, and the Finance Ministry on its own also were tasked with the identification of such priority projects. The Cabinet Secretariat was directed to hold a meeting with Chief Secretaries of States to have State Governments on board with this new mechanism.
Initiating the discussion, Shri P.Chidambaram, Finance Minister, stated that his Ministry has compiled a list of about 215 such projects, where the banks have already funded more than Rs. 7 lakh crore. The time and cost overruns being faced by these projects has also been documented, as well as the action required to remove the implementation bottlenecks. While some of bottlenecks being faced are in the domain of regulatory authorities at the Central level, a large number of impediments are those that lie in the domain of State Governments, and local bodies. He therefore flagged the need for having an institutional mechanism which has sufficient authority, to coordinate with the concerned authorities and get these projects moving on the ground.
Shri Anand Sharma, Commerce Minister, stated that his Ministry has done a compilation of projects in the manufacturing sector, which are stalled due to various inter-agency bottlenecks. He also emphasized the need to sensitize the State Governments in order to elicit their cooperation.
Shri Sriprakash Jaiswal, Minister for Coal, and Shri C.P Joshi, Minister of Road Transport and Highways welcomed the proposal to have such a coordination mechanism for investment projects.
Shri Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Power agreed with the need to have a project management group at the apex level which would champion investment projects, both in the public and private sectors.
Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment & Forests, stated that her Ministry has an on-line portal where the status of all projects which have been submitted for clearances with the Ministry, could be tracked. She further stated that pendency of projects for various Environment and Forest clearances has now been significantly reduced, and the process to accord such clearances has been further streamlined.
Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, was of the opinion that this proposed institutional mechanism should be put in place at the earliest, and 20 -30 major projects chosen across the sectors on priority, for speedy resolution. This will work as a confidence booster to investment sentiment and signal the government’s seriousness on the issue, he said.
Principal Secretary to Prime Minister apprised that a list of projects of the public sector from various Ministries such as Coal, Power, and Shipping has already been compiled. FICCI has also submitted a list of 52 projects in the private sector, with an investment greater than Rs.1000 crore, which are delayed due to various bottlenecks. He was of the opinion that the monitoring mechanism may be anchored in the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, with a supportive cell, suitably empowered, which brings these projects to the CCI, and also follow up on the decisions of the CCI.
The Cabinet Secretary stated that the Ministries dealing with such stalled projects will need to monitor the projects closely and instructions have already been issued in this regard on 16.1.2013. He apprised that the Cabinet Secretariat has prepared an ‘Online CCI Projects Tracking System’ portal for tracking projects of over Rs.1000 crore. The Cabinet Secretary presented snap shots of the tracking system available on the Cabinet Secretariat Website. Secretary, DEA invited attention to the fact that very often, stalled projects are in the private sector or in sectors not in the infrastructure domain, e.g., in the cement industry.