|Pulok Chatterji with PM (File photo)|
social agenda in elections years. But he sprang a surprise after he aggressively backed the country's infrastructure agenda by coordinating with various ministries including environment and forests to revive languishing projects. He first gave an audience to corporate honchos whose power projects were stuck because of coal shortage. Also, the culture of monitoring big-ticket projects of Rs 1,000 crore and above on a quarterly basis, began only last year at Chatterji's behest. Then came the idea of fixing targets for each project though many of those targets fixed in June last year were under-achieved.
On Friday, Chatterji will chair the first meeting of the steering group to accelerate infrastructure investment. The meeting will be attended by secretary level officers from finance ministry, Planning Commission, road transport and highways, shipping, civil aviation, power and also Railway Board chairman. So far as the railway projects are concerned, the group will come up with a “creative financing-cum-implementation mechanism” for enhancing investment and clearing backlog of projects of about Rs 2 lakh crore in a prioritized manner, a PMO statement said on Monday.
How to fast-track the following projects will come up in the agenda.
1) Mumbai Elevated Rail Corridor (Rs 30,000 crore)
2) Two Locomotive projects (Rs 5,000 crore)
3) Accelerating Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (Rs 10,000 crore)
4) One of the two port projects (Rs 10,000 crore)
5) Two airport projects (Rs 20,000 crore)
6) Power and Transmission projects (Rs 40,000 crore)
Despite having a good intention, Chatterji's infrastructure strategies may not go all well. The public private partnership projects are languishing, as private companies are not in a position to raise enough equity to fund projects. Some are on an exit mode. Some construction-cum-infra companies have complained in the PMO that they are cash-strapped because government agencies including public sector companies have not released them the outstanding amount for earlier construction work. What has triggered a further deterioration of the investment climate in core sector is the existence of a not-so-friendly debt market now. And finally, no one will even dream that governor D Subbarao and his men at RBI will slash interest rates in the backdrop of the recent rupee fall.
So, will master bureaucrat Chatterji change his infra strategies? Let's wait till Friday to read his mind better.