PM Narendra Modi to chair webinars on infrastructure, divestment

Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi will chair webinars on infrastructure (infra) and divestment-related Budget announcements on March 8 and March 9, respectively.

The objectives of these meetings will be to brainstorm with experts from the public and private sectors, academia and industry, and identify strategies on how best to move forward towards implementation of various issues under different sectors.

The finance ministry said in a statement that the webinar on Tuesday will see participation from 16 ministries, NITI Aayog, Capacity Building Commission, and state governments. It will also include participation from regulators like the Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Devel­opment, GIFT City, industry asso­ciations, subject matter experts, and the investor community.

While the official statement only spoke about the infra meeting, sources told Business Standard that a similar webinar will be held on privatisation, asset monetisation, and other divestment plans of the government on Wednesday. These are part of a series of post-Budget interactions being chaired by the PM and organised by various ministries on the implementation of the Budget announcements.

“Representatives from various infra companies, real estate investment trusts, infra investment trusts, and funds will attend the webinar on Tuesday. The focus will be on various means of infra financing, project implementation, and opportunities for the private sector,” said an official.

According to the ministry, the webinar will have breakaway sessions on themes, including infra financing, financing sectors with high employment potential, creating enablers of infra, navigating the digital opportunity for banking and finance, climate and sustainable finance, and financing for sunrise sectors.

“Through the webinar, the Ministry of Finance seeks to get valuable inputs on ways to accelerate the pace and achieve the agenda of the themes. By leveraging stakeholders’ expertise and experience, an action plan for effe­ctive implementation of gro­wth reforms will be catalysed,” it said.

High-multiplier infra projects are the main thrust of the Centre’s plans to revive the economy after three waves of the Covid-19 pandemic. The focus will be on roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways, and logistics infra, as laid down in the PM Gati Shakti Mission. The Centre will also provide a push in energy transmission, technology, bulk water and sewerage, and social infra.

To this end, the 2022-23 (FY23) capital expenditure (CAPEX) target as laid out by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is Rs 7.5 trillion, which includes Rs 1 trillion in 50-year interest-free loans to states for their CAPEX needs.

The platform for the Centre’s infra push is the Rs 111-trillion National Infrastructure Pipeline for the period 2020-2025. Energy, roads, railways, and urban projects are estimated to account for a bulk of projects at around 70 per cent. The Centre (39 per cent) and states (40 per cent) are expected to have an almost equal share in implementing the projects, while the private sector has a 21 per cent share.

Wednesday’s meeting on divestment, asset monetisation, and privatisation will focus on how the private sector can participate in these plans, said sources.

The National Monetisation Pipeline looks to lease Rs 6 trillion worth of government and public sector assets to the private sector, which can operate them and share a part of the proceeds with the exchequer.

For 2021-22 (FY22), the Centre’s privatisation plans were derailed yet again due to the pandemic. Although Air India was finally sold to Tata Sons, privatisation plans for Bharat Petroleum, Pawan Hans, Neelachal Ispat Nigam, Shipping Corporation of India, Central Electronics, and Container Corporation of India are still pending. The FY22 Revised Estimate has lowered to Rs 78,000 crore, from the Budget Estimate of Rs 1.75 trillion.

However, the revised target may not be met as global uncertainty due to war in Europe means the Centre is considering when to carry out the initial public offering of Life Insurance Corporation of India. The divestment target for FY23 is Rs 65,000 crore.

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