Infrastructure Investment (Amendment) Bill goes to Subject Committee

Finance Minister Thomas Isaac introducing Infrastrucure Board Bill on MondayThiruvananthapuram: The Assembly on Monday referred the Kerala Infrastructure Investment (Amendment) Bill, which is to replace Ordinance issued earlier, to the Subject Committee.

The Bill seeks to alter the structure of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Board to enable it to raise funds from the open market for projects in 23 sectors including agriculture, education and health.

The Bill proposes that the Board should have Chief Minister as its Chairperson and Finance Minister as it Vice-chairperson.  An executive committee headed by the Finance Minister will oversee day to day functioning.

The Bill specifies that the Board would get budgetary allocation for repayment of bonds (besides government guarantee) and a share in motor vehicle tax and cess on petrol.

The Opposition raised several objections to the Bill including that the large sums proposed to be used for infrastructure development was being taken out of the scrutiny of legislature. The Opposition also said that the financial memorandum attached to the Bill did not explain the non-recurring expenses properly.

Finance Minister T. M. Thomas Isaac said that the RBI and SEBI had drawn up new structures for tapping the bond market for infrastructure projects. Licences and clearances for raising the money needed to be obtained by the Board only at a later stage.

Funding was being extended to social infrastructure and the Bill specified sources for repayment of the borrowed funds.

Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan allowed the Bill to be introduced despite the objections from the Opposition but said that the deficiency regarding the financial memorandum should be considered for rectification.

Participating in the debate on the Bill, M. K. Muneer (Muslim League) said that the Bill would mean the end of Road Fund Board. The Road Fund Act and Bill proposed allocation of funds from the same source-- vehicle tax and petrol cess. The Bill should have been brought after taking to dissolve the Road Fund Board. Its future projects already stood frozen.

The Finance Minister who replied to the debate on the Bill said that the Road Fund Board was not being dismantled. Vehicle tax could be shared between the two.

Dr. Isaac announced that no toll would be introduced for roads developed using Infrastructure investment fund.The character of schools would change. Quality of medical care would improve.  Major roads would be developed. Housing for all would be ensured.