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Fast track approval for PSU overseas investment on the anvil

Once the fast-track mechanism is in place, government-owned companies, particularly in the strategic areas of coal, oil and mines will be able to seek approval for investment abroad directly from the high-powered committee, within three weeks

New Delhi: The government is considering a fast track approval of PSU proposals for acquisition of natural resources like oil, coal and mines overseas, without going to the Cabinet, according to a top official.

An empowered committee headed by Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar will be put in place for clearing the PSU projects for acquisitions of strategic assets abroad, Secretary in the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Bhaskar Chatterjee, told PTI.

"Secretaries of the administrative ministry (in charge) of PSU, its Chairman and Managing Director and representatives of ministries of external affairs, law and finance will be on the empowered committee," he said.

Mr Chatterjee said that once the fast track mechanism is in place, government-owned companies, particularly in the strategic areas of coal, oil and mines, will be able to seek approval for investment abroad directly from the high-powered committee within three weeks.

"They will take the proposals directly to this committee. They don't have to go through the process of referring their proposals to the ministry," he said, adding that under the present dispensation, it may take up to six months for the approval.

He said that the proposal for setting up of the empowered committee would soon be taken to Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Praful Patel.

The mechanism, to be approved by the Cabinet, is likely to be in place in the next three to four weeks, Mr Chatterjee added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said on 15th December that the government is working on a policy to encourage public sector units to scout for raw material strategic assets abroad.

The move is aimed at fighting competition from the neighbouring country China. Besides, it would help in providing a cushion to the PSUs to fight competition, posed by private companies in India looking at similar opportunities overseas.

The world's largest coal producer Coal India is also in talks with US-based Peabody Energy and Massey Energy for stakes in the mines owned by these companies.

State-run steel major SAIL along with NTPC, Coal India and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) is also scouting for coal mines in Australia and other coal-rich nations by forming a joint venture company called 'International Coal Ventures Ltd'.

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