• Nitin Gadkari seeks fuel cess to raise funds for inland waterway projects

    Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said his ministry is mobilizing money to finance the inland waterways projects through state-run ports to benefit from the latter’s ability to borrow cheap loans overseas.

    Gadkari said that he is also seeking 5 per cent of the fund collected from cess on petrol and diesel for financing the inland waterways projects.

    Indian government has made ambitious plans to develop inland waterways on rivers like Ganga, Brahmaputra and Mahanadi, which could potentially form a network 20,000 km long and reduce cost of transport substantially.

    “The budget for the shipping ministry is Rs 1,800 crore but for 20,000 km of inland waterways we need at least Rs 70,000-80,000 crore. The projects are economically viable with good internal rate of return but it has not been successfully practised in our country,” the union surface transport, roads and shipping minister Gadkari said.

    The state-run ports will form subsidiaries that will own and operate these inland waterways projects.

    “Inland waterways don’t have any financial credentials right now. But our ports can raise foreign loan at low cost that will be helpful for the economic viability of these projects. The ports will raise dollar loans and pay it back in dollars to reduce the cost of borrowing,” he said, on the side-lines of a Indo American Chamber of Commerce conference.

    The centre has announced plans to inject Rs 25 lakh crore to strengthen inland waterways, ports and rail-road links, which will create four crore jobs in the country.

    Gadkari said that the government is confident of scaling up road constriction to 41 km per day from the present 22 km per day, for which his ministry is removing constraints relating to land acquisition, forest and environment clearances and has fast-tracked many processes.

    Commenting on the appointment of Urjit Patel as governor of the Reserve Bank of India, he said that given his background in infrastructure, he should consider reducing interest rate to the infrastructure sector by at least 2 per cent so that the projects become viable.

    “Interest rate at 11-12 per cent for infrastructure projects is not viable. We expect that it can be reduced by 2 per cent for these projects to become viable,” the minister said.

    He said that of the 403 stranded road projects that his ministry inherited, only 7-8 projects are still stuck while the issues with rest of them have been resolved. Kevin Faulk Authentic Jersey

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