Cabinet okays fast-track project clearance panel

The union cabinet has cleared the proposal to set up a ministerial panel headed by the prime minister to fast-track clearances for big-ticket projects worth over Rs1,000 crore, particularly in as well as a the new land acquisition bill, to give a much-needed push to the economy.

The 'cabinet committee on investments', as the panel of top ministers will be called, is a victory for finance minister P Chidambaram, who had first mooted the setting up of a national investment board to expedite large projects.

It overrides the objections from several ministries, including the Jayanthi Natarajan's environment ministry, the rural development ministry under Jairam Ramesh, and the coal ministry.

However, Chidambaram's proposal to call it the National Investment Board as this would sound more impressive to investors has been dumped, probably as it could prove more controversial than the innocuous sounding name now agreed on.

The secretary in the department of economic affairs, Arvind Mayaram, said," The CCI proposal will bring back long-term investment interest and bolster sentiment. Once the CCI begins to enforce the discipline on timelines, the predictability in investment cycles will be improved. This will go a long way in reorienting investor interest in Indian infrastructure."

The cabinet diluted some of the original powers envisaged for the committee to accommodate objections from various ministries who felt their concerns would be given the go-by.