Hard times,UPA gets EC to agree on OK for new projects

The UPA government has managed to extract the election watchdog’s consent to go ahead and float tenders for new projects and spend money on them.

Written by Smita Aggarwal | New Delhi | Published:March 14, 2009 12:59 am

The UPA government has managed to extract the election watchdog’s consent to go ahead and float tenders for new projects and spend money on them. “The administrative ministry will,however,have to get these cleared by the Election Commission,” said a secretary to the Central government.

In a communication to the Election Commission,Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar — who met EC officials shortly before the dates were announced — sought its opinion on expenditure in big-ticket programmes after the model code of conduct kicks in. Expressing concern over the slowing down of the economy,Chandrasekhar noted that award of projects must continue to mitigate the impact of the global crisis.

GDP estimates for the third quarter showed India grew just 5.3 per cent,making it difficult for the country to achieve the targeted 7 per cent growth rate for the full fiscal. The government has announced a string of fiscal measures during the last three months including sharp tax cuts and higher expenditure to rev the economy.

Originally,the code of conduct did not allow beneficiary-oriented schemes,even if ongoing,during the election period and banned fresh release of funds. This may change now,said an official.

There are about seven flagship schemes of the UPA including Bharat Nirman,National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme,Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan,National Rural Health Mission,Mid-day Meal Scheme and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. In fact,relaxations were made to some of the schemes like JNNURM that allowed states to avail of higher Central funds to perk up demand. An official in the urban development ministry said,“This will allow us to take up additional projects from smaller cities that have sent proposals to avail one-time central funds for buying more buses.”

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