The government will soon firm up a pipeline of infrastructure assets belonging to various departments and state-run entities for monetisation over the next three years, junking the practice of drawing up short-term or annual road maps, a senior official told FE.
The assets that would be up for grab by 2024 could easily exceed Rs 2 lakh crore, although a precise estimate will be firmed up once the drive to identify them is over, said another official. The medium-term pipeline will enable investors to choose from a wider pool of assets and allow them more time for due diligence. The Centre has zeroed in on a clutch of assets, including pipelines of Indian Oil and GAIL and select assets of Indian Railways, Delhi and Kolkata Metro rail systems and the Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor.
The idea is to boost the non-debt capital receipts, which are currently raised solely via disinvestment of government stakes in central public sector undertakings (CPSEs). In parallel, the government has also adopted a policy of aggressive privatization of CPSEs, as it seeks to make up for the low tax revenue buoyancy in the short term.
All infrastructure ministries have been directed to zero in on potential assets for monetisation. Niti Aayog chief executive Amitabh Kant is driving this initiative. A dash board, along the lines of the one for the Rs 111-lakh-crore National Infrastructure Pipeline, will be set up where the assets can be viewed by potential investors.
Earlier, Niti Aayog had identified two lists of core assets, including 12 lots of highway bundles of 6,000 km to raise up to Rs 60,000 crore. Power Grid will offer transmission lines worth a total of Rs 20,000 crore in phases. Even private sector participation in the running of about 150 passenger trains and redevelopment of 50 railway stations also featured in the government’s agenda.
A core group of secretaries for asset monetisation (CGAM), headed by the cabinet secretary, reviews the progress of this initiative.
In the Budget for FY22, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that National Highways Authority of India and Power Grid Corporation each have sponsored one InvIT to draw investors. Five operational roads, with an estimated value of Rs 5,000 crore are being transferred to the NHAI InvIT. Similarly, transmission assets worth Rs 7,000 crore will be transferred to the PGCIL InvIT, she said. The next lot of airports will be monetised for operations and management concession.
Earlier, NITI Aayog had also recommended the monetisation of special assets such as stadiums and tourism/mountain railways lines. The CGAM last year reviewed progress on monetisation of Jawaharlal Nehru Sports Stadium in New Delhi and three stadiums of railways (Karnail Singh Stadium, Waltair Stadium and Railway Indoor Sports Stadium) and four tourism/mountain railways at Darjeeling, Nilgiris, Kalka Simla and Matheran.
The Airports Authority of India is the only entity to have completed monetisation of six identified airports (Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur and Guwahati) and is now gearing up for the next round.
FE had earlier reported that the shipping ministry was in the process of recycling 11 assets, including 10 berths and lnternational Cruise Terminal at Goa Port.
As for the assets of central public-sector enterprises (CPSEs), while the government would retain 100% of the proceeds from monetisation of non-core assets of units identified for strategic sale and enemy properties, it could share a large chunk of the proceeds with CPSEs in case operational core assets are monetised. The proceeds to the Centre from asset monetisation would be counted as disinvestment receipts, which so far only included receipts from equity sales in CPSEs and other entities.
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