Aiming to speed up airport modernisation projects, a Parliamentary committee has made a strong pitch for grant of financial autonomy to Airports Authority of India (AAI) and allowing it to raise funds through tax-free bonds.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, in its latest report, noted that "the much-emphasised financial autonomy to AAI to plan and execute its projects has not materialised so far".
The Committee, headed by CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury, said it hoped that the civil aviation ministry "will impress the ministry of finance in granting permission to AAI to float tax-free bonds to raise funds so that the ongoing and planned airport projects are not stalled or delayed for want of funds".
The AAI, a mini-ratna, has long been awaiting the finance ministry's approval to its proposal to raise Rs. 3,000 crore through tax-free infrastructure bonds to fund various airport development and modernisation projects.
The Committee's 174th report, tabled in the Parliament last week, also asked the government to "lend a helping hand to AAI" in recovering its outstanding dues from various agencies for the services rendered to them so that its cash flow was maintained at the desired level.
Besides undertaking the modernisation of Chennai and Kolkata airports, the AAI is also working on upgrading 35 non-metro airports.
Chennai and Kolkata airports are being developed through internal resources and loans raised by AAI to the tune of Rs. 1,600 crore which is estimated to go up to Rs. 3,000 crore.
The Committee noted that funds allocated under the 11th Plan for the airport infrastructure provider was reduced to the revised estimate level of Rs. 208.65 crore from Rs. 280.15 crore as budget estimate level in the last fiscal.
Of this, it said the AAI had spent only Rs. 120.99 crore during the fiscal.
The parliamentary panel said that the AAI's ability to spend merely 60 per cent of the plan allocation "does not augur well for the development of required airport infrastructure in the country".
But the AAI informed the Committee that delays in getting requisite clearances and land acquisition for airport projects were the reasons for under-utilisation in 2011.
The Committee expressed hope that AAI would ensure that it utilised the allocated funds to the maximum extent during the current fiscal.