Covid-19: Govt widens powers of two cabinet panels to meet economic crisis

The latest amendments to the functions of the two committees come in the wake of a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
With one eye on post-lockdown economic reconstruction, the government has amended the functions of two key cabinet committees that deal with employment, investment and growth.

On April 3, the cabinet secretariat amended the transaction of business rules to alter the functions of two committees – the cabinet committee on investment and growth, and the cabinet committee on employment and skill generation.

The nature of the amendments is aimed at broadening the functions of the two committees, giving them wider powers in decision making.

For example, earlier the cabinet committee on investment and growth was tasked with identifying key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, particularly in infrastructure and manufacturing.

The amendment has removed the Rs 1,000 crore limit, and also included in the committee’s ambit “sector specific reforms and other measures aimed at export promotion, import substitution, accelerating capital inflows, etc.”

Currently there are concerns, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi also voiced during his meeting with the council of ministers on Monday, on India's declining exports.  

PM holds first video conference with all chief ministers amid lockdown | Photo: Twitter (@ANI)

The government had set up these two new committees on June 5, 2019, after the Narendra Modi government was re-elected for a second term and in response to growth slowing down and increase in joblessness. The PM heads both these committees.

The latest amendments to the functions of the two committees come in the wake of a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, which has disrupted economic activity.

For the committee on investment and growth, the earlier functions included identifying “key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis”, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or any other critical projects, as may be specified by it, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing.

The committee on investment and growth was also to prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors and monitor the progress of such projects.

The committee’s amended functions include measures to promote investment and growth; sector specific reforms and other measures aimed at export promotion, import substitution, accelerating capital inflows.
It will also look at measures for improving Ease of Doing Business including rationalization and simplification of rules and regulations; measures to fast-track requisite approvals and implementation of key ongoing as well as new projects; and any other matter relating to boosting investment and growth.

The functions of the cabinet committee on employment and skill generation have also been broad based.

Earlier, the committee’s brief was to look at policies, programmes and schemes for skill development and increasing employability of the workforce in the context of the “emerging requirements of the rapidly growing economy and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend”.

The amendment has deleted the phrases “rapidly growing economy” and “mapping the benefits of demographic dividend”.

According to the amendment, the committee will continue to pursue its earlier brief but aimed at “effectively meeting the emerging requirements of the economy”, which would suggest the government focus on meeting the drop in GDP and unemployment in the wake of the lockdown.

Further, the committee will consider measures aimed at increasing workforce participation, and the amendment has tasked it with giving "particular emphasis on women workforce".

The executive works under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961. There are in total eight cabinet committees, including on appointments, security and economic affairs.


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