A day after the auction of India’s state-owned assets, a top-level cabinet meeting of India ‘s government was held, with the central bank announcing the central government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to purchase 1,300 tonnes of steel and 1,200 tonnes of gold, among other items.
The government also announced it would invest in infrastructure, with a target of a total investment of Rs 1,100,000 crore.
The cabinet meeting came a day after India ‘ s finance minister P. Chidambaram announced the central and state governments had agreed to auction off the assets, which are among the largest and most valuable of India .
The government has said it will use the funds for projects across the country, with an aim of increasing infrastructure.
The announcement comes a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is set to host its first meeting of the National Economic Council, with ministers from across the Cabinet meeting in New Delhi to discuss the economy, the economy as a whole and key policies.
According to sources in the cabinet, the MoU was signed by finance minister Arun Jaitley and cabinet secretary Jairam Ramesh on Saturday, after which the cabinet discussed the details of the auctions.
“There was agreement that this MoU is a major step forward for economic growth and development in India ,” said a government official who asked not to be identified.
This was followed by a cabinet meeting on Sunday where the central board of governors (CBOC) and state government also signed the MoUs.
The CBOC, which includes Jaitot, Rameshi and other senior officials, will now conduct the auctions, the government official said.
During the meeting, the cabinet agreed to a proposal for the purchase of steel, a proposal that has come in for considerable criticism from some quarters, including the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The steel auction was expected to bring a boost to the economy.
Steel accounts for about 11% of India s gross domestic product, while the government has proposed a 10% cut in tariff on steel imports to be made to boost exports, while also reducing the cost of steel by 40%.
The steel auctions, which will be conducted by the state-run Hindustan Steel Corporation Limited (HSCL), are also expected to lead to a major boost to industrial investment in the country.
The government is also keen to boost the manufacturing sector, which accounts for around 40% of the economy and has been the focus of several measures announced by Modi’s Government, including on increasing the minimum wage and increasing state jobs.
The government is planning to buy 2,200 tons of steel from HCL, and also to sell 2,100 tons to foreign buyers, with other government purchases expected.
The MoU includes a provision for a 30% discount for the government and banks on the purchase price.
The sale of steel will also be a major boon for the industry in terms of the supply chain, which is expected to see an increase in steel imports, as the government aims to increase the number of steel mills in the industry, the official said, adding that the government also hopes to raise steel exports to export to Europe and Asia, as steel is also used in the manufacture of car components.
The auction is expected at the end of the month.