PM highlights infrastructure initiatives (To go with 'PM assures industry of economic recovery')

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said infrastructure is absolutely critical for the medium-term growth prospects and added "we are monitoring progress in this area on a quarterly basis".

Various initiatives of the government:

. The Government has plans for setting up two major ports in Andhra Pradesh and in West Bengal. New airports are envisaged to come up in Navi Mumbai, Juhu, Goa, Pune and Kannur. At 50 other locations, new small airports are being built.

. Major railway projects, including an elevated rail corridor for Mumbai, are being processed. The feasibility of a bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad is being studied. Industrial Corridors from Delhi to Mumbai, Amritsar to Kolkata and Chennai to Bangalore are being considered. All these initiatives are being monitored at the highest level with a sense of urgency. There are several other reforms that have been undertaken over the last one year. The banking laws have been amended to raise the cap on voting.

. Subsidy reform and rationalisation has started in full force. Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme is being rolled out across the country to reduce both wastage and corruption in delivery of public service. Foreign Direct Investment has been liberalised in single brand retail, multi-brand retail, civil aviation and power exchanges. More FDI reforms are on the anvil as has been reported. A new bank licensing policy has been announced and new licences are soon to be awarded. GAAR, which has been a subject matter of considerable concern to industry, has been postponed by 2 years and there is greater clarity on the rules.

. Taxation issues of the IT sector and of development centres have been resolved based on the Rangachary Committee report. Public sector investment has been fast-tracked and I have estimated that over Rs.120,000 crore has been invested by major Public Sector Units last year. Infrastructure Debt Funds have been rolled out. Sugar has been fully decontrolled. Railways have corrected their fares for the first time in a decade.

. Construction has begun on the Dedicated Freight Corridor. The investment policy for urea has been approved. Gas pricing has been corrected to reflect market realities better. Procedural improvements have been made in the road sector to improve the economic viability of projects.

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