Millennium Post

Centre to improve air connectivity, develop 25 regional airports: Jaitley

To improve air connectivity, Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said the government plans to develop 25 regional airports. “This year I have set a target of having 25 more regional airports,” Jaitley said. Speaking at a conference here, the finance minister also emphasised the need for having long-term funding for infrastructure.

He said the government is looking to develop 15 airstrips owned by the state governments and 10 that are with the Airports Authority of India (AAI). There are around 160 airstrips that are lying unused, he said while talking about the steps taken by the government for infrastructure development in the country. According to the minister, AAI would be able to fund itself from the money coming from Delhi and Mumbai airports. The international airports in the national capital and Mumbai are run through public private partnerships, where AAI is a stakeholder. Further, Jaitley said the operation and management of some developed airports could be given to private players. The government has been working on ways to bolster aviation sector, especially increasing regional connectivity amid rising number of air passengers. In the draft civil aviation policy, which is in the advanced stages of finalisation, various measures have been mooted for boosting regional air connectivity. The conference on ‘Fulfilling India’s Potential: How Capital Markets Can Meet Financing Needs’ is organised by IFC along with NSE, IIF and Exim Bank. Jaitley further said the government is trying to easen the business environment in the country. “We are trying to introduce fairness in the decision making process... we are trying to make sure that decision making is quick,” the minister added.

He said though the low oil prices have helped India, there are challenges created by global situation particularly in terms of shrinkage of exports. He said global trade is shrinking, there is volatility and unpredictability and “frankly no body knows how long this will last”. In such a situation, Jaitley said India really has to create firewalls around it to cushion the impact from global developments. The finance minister further said in comparison to the rest of the world, India looks good but “compared to our own standards and our own potential, I think we can do much better”.

He, however added the challenges come from the agriculture sector in the wake of two continuous years of weak monsoons. He expressed hope that this year, the monsoon rains will be good and the agriculture sector growth will pick up. The minister said last fiscal about three crore people were given loans under the MUDRA scheme. He said this fiscal, the target for the current fiscal will be “much higher” than the last year.
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