The National Investment Board (NIB) will be equivalent in rank to a Cabinet Committee on Investments, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said in the Lok Sabha today. The board will be headed by the Prime Minister. However, it will not be a substitute for the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), the Finance Minister clarified.
The NIB is being set up to ensure that clearances required for major projects (above Rs 1,000 crore) are granted by the relevant ministries without unnecessary delays; the blueprint for the NIB, which was discussed at a Union Cabinet meeting in late September but has yet been cleared, gives the board the power to overrule other ministries.
“Our problem lies in getting the numerous clearances required for projects,” Mr Chidambaram said added.
In early October, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan had written to the Prime Minister, strongly objecting to the Finance Minister’s proposal to set up the NIB. NDTV had accessed Ms Natarajan's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in which she asked him to intervene, and wrote, "This concept is unacceptable. The NIB has no constitutional authority to decide on the failure of any minister... when the Minister of a Ministry takes a decision, there is absolutely no justification for an NIB to assume his/her authority. Nor will the NIB have the competence to do so." The letter added in appeal, "I request you to kindly intervene and refer this proposal to various levels of government for proper examination."
A Cabinet note prepared by the Finance Ministry said the NIB is necessary because several big-ticket projects have been held up due to inordinate delays in getting approvals from different ministries. It noted that it can take several years to get all clearances and important targets had not been met.
If clearances are not given by the concerned ministries within a specified time-frame, the projects should be sent to the NIB, which would be headed by the Prime Minister and would have as members the finance minister and law minister, according to the blueprint. The board will take the final call on whether the project can proceed. Once the NIB has okayed a project, no ministry will have the power to raise objections.
Mr Chidambaram said today: “The Environment Ministry has raised some concerns which have been added to the Cabinet note. The Cabinet’s decision will be final.”