Cabinet in overdrive, 27 decisions on Wednesday

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) The union cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was in overdrive on Wednesday with as many as 27 decisions — including some key ones such as divestment of equity in Coal India and direct subsidy for cane farmers — being approved at its meeting here.

These decisions, some of which signal the continuation of economic reforms, closely follow an official note issued last week in which foreign equity norms were relaxed in some 16 sectors.

This was the first meeting of the union cabinet after the over-a-month-long Bihar assembly polls, during which the model code of conduct barred the government from making fresh announcements.

Besides the decision to dilute stake in Coal India, the cabinet also approved an initial public offer by Cochin Shipyard and three percent interest subsidy to exporters — decisions which were welcomed by the corporate world, with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) calling it “a step in the right direction”.

“The major decisions of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs to disinvest 10 percent stake in Coal India and make initial public offering for Cochin Shipyard send out the right signal that the Government is fast-tracking reforms,” CII said.

The steps are expected to add to investible public resources, while the extension of subsidy in exports is expected to give boost to export sector which has contracted by 18 percent in the year so far.

The infrastructure sector is also expected to get a boost as the cabinet decided to raise the limit of projects approved by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry and gave clearance to as many as 34 road projects apart from clearing Rs.10,000 crore of railway projects.

These moves come just a week after the government brought in FDI-related Reforms and liberalisation touching upon 15 major sectors of the economy, including defence, civil aviation, private sector banking, and broadcasting.

The decision is expected to further ease, rationalise and simplify the process of foreign investments in the country and to put more FDI proposals on automatic route.

The list also included some crucial social sector decisions, including one for allocating Rs.2,000 crore for resettlement of Kashmiri migrants.

Another key decision is on determination of marketing margin for supply of domestic gas to urea and LPG producers.

Asked about the deluge of decisions after a long dry spell, a central minister said it signified the government’s efforts for economic reforms.

“It shows the government’s commitment to reforms. However, since the model code of conduct was in place during Bihar elections, these decisions had to wait,” the minister said.

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