Decks have been cleared for setting up a National Investment Board (NIB) to expedite projects entailing investment of Rs 1,000 crore and more. The body will have both monitoring and approval powers; it could, however, be called the ‘Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI)’ if the cabinet so prefers.
It is learnt that the cabinet secretariat received a cabinet note on the proposed body from the finance ministry on Tuesday. The cabinet is likely to take it up shortly.
Official sources said that while the NIB would initially deal with infrastructure projects only, there is a proposal to expand its mandate to include manufacturing sector projects. The ministry has left it to the cabinet to decide whether it should be called NIB or CCI.
The body will be a cabinet committee headed by the prime minister and modelled on the lines of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure. The Ministry of Environment & Forests, which was the first to raise an alarm over the proposal to set up the NIB, and other concerned ministries will be part of the proposed body. It will be housed in either the cabinet secretariat or the PMO, said sources.
While the PMO gave its nod to an NIB last week, the cabinet secretariat argued that giving it powers to override other ministries would require many changes in the transaction of business rules. It suggested a CCI, to be assisted by a committee of secretaries.
There was also a debate on whether the body should have the power to approve projects, or to only monitor them. These issues are said to have been “sorted out” in the past few days, leading to finalisation of the cabinet note.
Some ministries had expressed reservations over setting a timeline or deadline for making decisions, failing which the NIB would take over the matter. Sources said it has now been decided to have different timelines depending on the ministries and the nature of projects. A nuclear power project, for instance, would get more time.
What appears to have swung the deal in favour of the NIB — an idea of Finance Minister P Chidambaram — was the strong backing of the Congress. Senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh had brushed aside naysayers’ objections and supported the NIB.