Manmohan sets up Project Monitoring Group

Faced with prospects of a continued decline in economic activity, a tumbling rupee and falling investor interest, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday directed the fast-tracking of infrastructure projects and unlocking of Rs. 7 lakh crore worth bank funded projects stuck for various reasons and lack of clearances at the Central and State level in a bid to investment sentiment.

The government had identified nearly 40 such projects and all hurdles in the shape of approvals and clearances would be completed by next month to kick-start the process of giving a big boost to infrastructure projects.

Dr. Singh, who chaired a meeting on the issue, directed the constitution of a Project Monitoring Group within the Cabinet Secretariat for monitoring all such projects whose total number comes to around 215. “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,’’ a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Briefing journalists about the status of these projects, Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram said the cell to be set up in the Cabinet Secretariat would fast-track all the stalled projects. The Finance Ministry had identified 215 projects where nearly Rs. 7 lakh crore of bank money was stuck. “Push will be given to these projects, what we call low hanging fruits among 215 projects, so that they can quickly take off the ground. We will push that in the remaining period of June and I am sure by July, we will tell you which are the projects we pushed. We have identified around 30 to 40 such projects.’’

Mr. Chidambaram listed out the time and cost overruns being faced by these projects as well as an action plan to remove implementation bottlenecks. While some of the bottlenecks being faced were in the domain of regulatory authorities at the Central level, a large number of impediments lay in the domain of State governments and local bodies.

Mr. Chidambaram stressed need to have an institutional mechanism that has sufficient authority to coordinate with the authorities concerned and get these projects moving on the ground.

“The Prime Minister has directed that suitable officers be identified at the earliest and priority projects quickly identified to be taken for tracking,’’ the PMO statement said. Similarly, 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.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said his Ministry had done a compilation of projects in the manufacturing sector that were stalled due to various inter-agency bottlenecks. He also emphasised need to sensitise the State governments in order to elicit their cooperation

Pulok Chatterjee, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, said a list of projects of the public sector from various Ministries such as Coal, Power, and Shipping had been compiled. FICCI had also submitted a list of 52 projects in the private sector with an investment greater than Rs.1000 crore, which were delayed due to various bottlenecks.

The Cabinet Secretary apprised that the Cabinet Secretariat has prepared an “Online CCI Projects Tracking System” portal for tracking projects of over Rs.1000 crore.

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