Plan panel and highways ministry locked in a verbal duel

The Planning Commission has advised 'sensible' use of funds by the road transport & highways ministry, a day after minister Kamal Nath rebuffed the panel

In a war of words, the Planning Commission on Wednesday has advised 'sensible' use of funds by the road transport & highways ministry, a day after minister Kamal Nath rebuffed the panel.

"If available resources are used sensibly, then we will get a significant improvement in what has been going on," Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Commission told PTI.

Mr Nath had reportedly said yesterday that the Commission should confine itself to planning rather than commenting on road projects.

Mr Ahluwalia said that the Commission was there to do the task assigned to it. "We are here exactly for what we have been meant to do," he said.

"I think if they listen to our advice they can," he said in reply to a query whether the ministry was going to achieve the ambitious target to construct 32,936km of roads in the remaining period of the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), as announced by Mr Nath.

He, however, refused to comment on Mr Nath's remarks carried by a section of the media saying, "I am not aware that he (Mr Nath) has said anything about the Planning Commission. I don’t know where he said (it). He has not said that to me."

About the ministry's proposal for allocation of Rs10,000 crore to infrastructure finance company India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL), Mr Ahluwalia said that it was meant to finance projects under public-private partnership (PPP) mode and not to government entities like the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

Earlier, the Commission had turned down a proposal from the ministry asking IIFCL to provide Rs10,000 crore to the NHAI.

"The note of the ministry proposes allocation of Rs10,000 crore from IIFCL to NHAI. This contradicts the stated purpose of IIFCL which is to provide supplementary financing to PPP projects and not to government entities. This proposal is not acceptable," Mr Ahluwalia had written to the ministry.

About the road ministry's progress, Mr Ahluwalia said, "We are reviewing it regularly. We are hopeful that we will get much better performance on roads this year."

Earlier, not impressed by the ambitious plans announced by Mr Nath, the Commission had advised the ministry to fix a 'reasonable’ target for construction of roads this year.

It pointed out to the ministry that it would not be able to award road construction contracts for more than 3,794km in 2009-10 against a target of 12,652km.

The ministry, the communication said, should adopt a programme fully in line with prime minister Manmohan Singh's Independence Day statement in which he had said, "Initiate action to construct 20 km per day (7,500 km per year).”

Mr Nath had unveiled his ministry's work plans for award of projects to construct 32,936km of roads by 31 March 2012.

Terming it "unrealisable", the Commission had suggested that the target be reduced to 19,250km.

Mr Nath has made several announcements, including construction of 35,000km of highways in five years and award of several mega-projects, besides investment of Rs2 lakh crore in the sector over the next two years.

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    Government allows duty-free sugar imports till 31st December

    The Union government has allowed imports of duty-free sugar till 31st December due to rising prices of the commodity

    The Indian government on Wednesday allowed import of refined sugar at zero duty up to 31st December in the wake of prices nearing Rs50 per kg in the retail market, reports PTI.

    The Cabinet Committee on Prices (CCP) also decided to permit Uttar Pradesh (UP) mills to process imported raw sugar outside the state due to restrictions there.

    Earlier, the government had allowed white sugar imports till 31st March this year.

    Expecting states to play a more active role in containing rising food prices, prime minister Manmohan Singh will review the situation with various chief ministers later this month.

    Food inflation is near 20%, while sugar is inching near Rs50 per kg in the retail market.

    The prime minister would also review the implementation of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, for reining in food prices, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said.

    The state government led by Mayawati is refusing to allow mills to process imported raw sugar in UP despite repeated requests from the Union government.

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    Newsviewer   Exclusive
    Broker route for mutual funds has been a non-starter

    Mutual fund volumes on NSE and BSE are yet to catch up, as only 792 combined orders worth Rs10 crore were recorded between 8 December 2009 and 12 January 2010

    Online trading volumes of mutual funds (MFs) continue to remain bleak if the numbers are anything to go by. According to the data available on National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) websites, NSE has received a total of 309 orders worth Rs3.26 crore while BSE StAR MF has received 483 orders worth Rs6.74 crore, a total of 792 combined orders between 8 December 2009 and 12 January 2010.

    The subscription orders received by NSE and BSE were 208 (Rs2.64 crore) and 346 (Rs3.72 crore) respectively for the same period. Surprisingly, BSE recorded 137 redemption orders worth Rs3.02 crore while NSE received 98 redemption orders worth Rs0.61 crore. The main reason behind introducing online trading of MFs was to increase retail participation, but the story here is totally different as we are getting to see more redemptions than subscriptions in terms of value.

    Currently out of 37 Asset Management Companies (AMCs), only 10 AMCs are registered with NSE so far while 11 are with the BSE StAR MF platform. Although these AMCs are registered in both these exchanges, their entire set of schemes are still not been made eligible to trade.

    Just to get a sense of how inconsequential the market share of broking platforms has been, consider this: subscriptions to MFs were Rs7,76,811 crore in December 2009 and redemptions were Rs9,34,015 crore, according to provisional data from the Association of Mutual Funds in India.

    Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) banned entry load charges on MF units with effect from 1st August in a bid to protect retail investor interests. This immediately led to a slump in MF subscriptions as distributors lost the incentive to sell funds.

    In order to increase the reach of MFs, SEBI allowed online platforms in NSE and BSE for stock brokers to buy and sell MFs since these two exchanges already reach 1,500 towns and cities over 200,000 stock exchange terminals.

    The NSE started its online trading platform for MFs on 30 November 2009 and the BSE launched its BSE StAR MF platform on 4 December 2009.

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    10 years ago

    A mature and spiritually grown person will adopt a holistic approach to all the aspects of his life or job or business. Such a person will adopt a win win strategy for all. The investor, the distributor-big & small and institutions of the country. When MF schemes were having entry load this was happening. Investments made by investors when entry load was existing are still giving them very good returns even today. And all were benefitted. After the entry load was removed for the benefit of investor a win-lose situation has emerged. In fact lose-lose situation has emerged for all the parties. This happens when un-holistic approach is adopted by anybody in his life or job or business. And since the humans sustain on Ego nobody will backtrack so easily.

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