In a message aimed at resuscitating investor confidence in India, the Prime Minister on Wednesday evening asserted his focus on re-energising the economy and said this year will see a series of new projects being commissioned, including international airports for Lucknow, Varanasi, Coimbatore, Trichy and Gaya. He met with senior ministers but Mukul Roy, the Railways Minister from Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress was missing. The absence signals the tense relations between the Congress and Ms Banerjee's party, which is a key ally in the UPA government at the centre.
"We as a government are committed to taking the necessary measures to reverse the present situation and to revive India's growth story," he told a group of senior ministers. "In these difficult times, we must do everything possible to revive business and investor sentiment...we must work to create an atmosphere which is conducive to investment and to removing any bottlenecks to growth," he said. (Full text of PM's remarks)
The meeting was chaired by Dr Manmohan Singh and included six ministers whose departments are critical for infrastructure - power, coal, aviation and road transport among then. Their targets were confirmed this evening and described as "aggressive and ambitious" by the PM. Ms Banerjee has been waiting to hear whether the UPA will agree to a moratorium on thousands of crores that her government owes as interest on loans from the centre.
The slowdown in growth - it fell to a nine-year low of 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 - and the alleged policy paralysis of the government was criticized at a meeting earlier this week of the Congress' highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
Currently, projects worth Rs. 1.46 lakh crore are awaiting clearances. According to Finance Ministry documents, these include power and steel projects and highways. The government says that $ one trillion will be required in the infrastructure sector over the next five years. The PM said this necessitates effective public-private partnerships.
By the end of July 2012, private-public partnerships will be finalised for 10-12 existing airports and for 10-12 greenfield airports. These will then be awarded during the year. A 'greenfield airport' means a new airport which is built from scratch at a new location because the existing airport is unable to meet the projected requirements of traffic.
A proposal for a bullet train between the trading hubs of Ahmedabad and Mumbai will be "finalised soon." An elevated rail corridor for Mumbai with a total investment of Rs. 20,000 crores will be awarded this year.
An additional 9500 kms of roads will be commissioned this year-an increase of 18.7% over last year. New ports for the Eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh and for West Bengal will be built with an investment of 20,500 crores.