• The cabinet approved a slew of measures to make monetisation of road assets more investor friendly, as the government gets cracking on raising funds through asset recycling.
  • Among key changes, the National highways authority of India (NHAI) has been allowed to vary the concession period of toll projects between 15 to 30 years.
  • NHAI has also been allowed to raise long-term financing from banks against toll receipts, the exercise commonly known as toll securitisation.
  • Going forward, the NHAI board is now allowed to make approvals to TOT projects, including the proposed stretches, concession period and concession value of the bundle, Sitharaman said.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved certain measures pertaining to the construction sector and noted that the government entities will take the decision to initiate proceedings for setting aside of the arbitral award, and any related appeal with the opinion of a law officer such as Attorney-General for India, Solicitor-General for India, Additional Solicitor-General for India in consultation with Department of Legal Affairs.
  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the measures were approved for effective implementation of the CCEA’s decision of August 31 on ‘Initiatives to revive the Construction Sector’. She said that the proposals put forward by NITI Aayog with respect to the arbitrations by or against government entities were approved.
  • Singapore-based toll road operator Cube Highways and Infrastructure has emerged as the successful bidder for the third bundle of Toll-Operate-Transfer (ToT) highway projects auctioned by India’s highway development agency by placing the highest bid of Rs 5,011 crores.
  • The auction of coal blocks for commercial mining would soon take place. Despite large proven reserves, India’s rising coal imports add up to over $20 billion annually due to warped policy and long years of a public monopoly, which has stultified output at huge national cost.
  • The policy of captive mining needs to be thoroughly overhauled as well, to gainfully boost investment and output going forward
  • In a major relief for the export sector, the customs authority has directed tax officials not to insist on proof of realisation of exports proceeds for processing of input tax refunds.
  • Delay in issuance of refunds has been a sore point for exporters since the switchover to goods and services tax (GST) regime in July 2017.
  • The new directive from the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) follows assurance from finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to the industry on easing of compliances.
  • The Ministry of Steel has proposed setting up integrated steel hubs similar to the ones in Korea, China and Germany. The hubs would support the growth of the steel sector.
  • According to a Draft Framework Policy-Development of Steel Clusters in India, “The Ministry is proposing creation of ‘Integrated Steel Hubs’ based on the principle of availability of raw material, logistics support and/or proximity to demand centres. It will enable capacity expansion through provision of a cohesive ecosystem, with presence of effective forward and backward linkages, single-window mechanism for swift approval of clearances and best-in-class logistics infrastructure.” The draft, uploaded on the Steel Ministry’s Website, has sought comments on the proposed policy.