Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi has taken direct control of the Project Monitoring Group (PMG) to fast-track investment worth almost $300 billion and revive manufacturing. According to two officials with direct knowledge of the matter, by taking over the PMG-which was previously in the Cabinet Secretariat-Modi could help firms planning coal, power, steel and infrastructure projects cut through a maze of up to 180 clearances.
"The fact that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) will be directly overseeing all the project clearances will impart a greater degree of efficiency and also ensure that clearances are fast-tracked at every level," one of the officials requesting anonymity told news agency Reuters on Thursday. "The PMO's stamp will make a big difference."
A PMO official said that a bureaucrat who had worked closely with Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat will head the PMG. The senior officer is among a few trusted civil servants with whom the PMO thrashes out key decisions often at the expense of ministerial authority.
Pro-business Modi has faced criticism in recent weeks that his ambition to spur investment and re-energise the economy has yet to be realised more than six months after he won elections. Industrial production contracted by 4.2 per cent in October, the sharpest decline
in, at least, two years on poor show by the manufacturing sector and dip in the output of capital as well as consumer goods. The factory output, as measured by the index of industrial production (IIP), had declined by 1.2 per cent in the same month last year.
Former PM Manmohan Singh had set up the PMG last year to prod ministers and bureaucrats sitting on files.
Since its inception, the PMG has facilitated 197 stalled projects worth about $110 billion. South Korean steelmaker Posco is one of many companies to have approached the PMG.
POSCO has waited nine years to get approvals to set up a $12-billion steel plant, which would be India's biggest foreign direct investment.