Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday sought active collaboration by central and state agencies in the asset monetization drive announced in the central budget for FY22 to find funds for building infrastructure.

At a meeting organized by federal policy think tank NITI Aayog and the department of economic affairs, Sitharaman called for “a proactive and collaborative approach” by central and state agencies for achieving the goals of the national asset monetization pipeline, said an official statement from NITI Aayog.

Sitharaman had announced the asset monetization drive in February under which functional assets such as airports, toll roads, gas pipelines, railway infrastructure assets and warehouses of central government run companies would be monetized to finance infrastructure building.

The minister’s emphasis on active collaboration among central and state agencies is significant given that in the past, Kerala government had objected to the privatization of Thiruvananthapuram airport, which delayed the process. States’ backing would make asset monetization hassle free.

At the meeting in which over 300 people participated, Sitharaman engaged with chief secretaries of states and administrators of Union Territories, the statement said.

The strategic context of core and non-core asset monetization, its need, modality and experience so far were discussed at the meeting. Sitharaman explained the infrastructure investment planned was critical for boosting states’ growth.

Prime Minister Modi had last month urged state chief ministers to sync their budget priorities with that of the Centre for faster development and emphasized on the need for synergy to deliver a synchronised push to infrastructure building and self-reliance.

NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant, who was present at the meeting, highlighted that partnership between central and state agencies was needed in leveraging the enormous resource efficiency of the private sector and for recycling public funds for new infrastructure creation, the statement said.

The idea is that a joint approach by the central and state governments will make asset sales hassle free and eliminate avoidable disputes. The meeting conceptualized a collaborative partnership framework between the Centre and states for realizing the country’s infrastructure vision and growth agenda, said the NITI Aayog statement.

Sitharaman said in a tweet that asset monetization needs to be viewed not just as a funding mechanism, but as an overall strategy for bringing about a paradigm shift in infrastructure augmentation and maintenance. “Our vision for infrastructure is ultimately of, for and by our states without whose collaboration, holistic development of infrastructure is neither feasible nor impactful,” Sitharaman said in her tweet.

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