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 (Image courtesy: pmmsy.dof.gov.in)
 
 
The World Bank (WB) has withdrawn its offer to finance first phase of $ 800 million project named ‘Enhancing Coastal and Ocean Resource Efficiency’ (ECORE) due to more than two years delay by the Cabinet in clearing it. The clearance is a pre-requisite for signing of the loan agreement with WB.
WB also aborted another project proposal named ‘Blue Revolution Program’ (BRP) in November 2022. This project could not move beyond the concept stage, which was unveiled in May 2020. 
In a third related project named ‘Fisheries Sector COVID-19 Recovery Project’, the Government is yet to sign agreement for WB loan approved in 17th June 2022. There are certain other projects, approved by multilateral institutions, awaiting Union Government’s clearance.
ECORE Phase-I was approved by WB on 28th April 2020. It has yet not got Cabinet clearance for loan signing. ENCORE’s phase I has two components: 1) Improved Capacity for Decentralized Coastal Management costing $120 million and 2) Improved Protection and Pollution Abatement in Coastal Areas costing $240 million. The total project cost of $360M is to be shared equally by WB and the Government. 
ENCORE phase-I envisages improvement in conserving environmentally sensitive coastal areas. It also provides for increased protection of people in eight States and three Union Territories.
As put by a WB document dated 15th December 2022, “Since the Bank has already provided an extension for one year, beyond the original timeline of 18 months and the loan signing has not been concluded by October 31, 2022, the Bank has withdrawn the loan offer.” With this, WB has obviously rejected Modi Government's request for yet another extension.
On October 31, 2022, FM's Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) penned a letter to WB requesting an extension of the signing date by an additional five months to enable the MoEFCC (the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change) to obtain the relevant internal approvals for realigning the loan to emphasize the “promotion of sustainable blue economy activities under the National Coastal Mission of the ongoing National Coastal Management Programme”.
The loan signing date was initially extended by six months from October 28, 2021, to April 30, 2022. A second extension was given for two months until June 30, 2022, which was followed by a third and final extension until October 31, 2022. 
According to a WB document, “In addition to the support provided to the MoEFCC by the task team, the Bank also engaged at higher levels with the Secretary and the Minister of the MoEFCC to facilitate the Loan signing. Unfortunately, the MoEFCC has been unable to meet all the deadlines for the signing of the Loan.”
Notwithstanding the offer withdrawal, document says: “We request the MoEFCC's continued effort to fast-track ENCORE's approval by Cabinet”. WB has given “unsatisfactory” rating as regards implementation of non-starter project.
The long-winding delay deserves elaboration as it shows how the truth about the most decisive government buried in the files. The instant case is not even the tip of the iceberg called policy paralysis. ( https://goo.gl/XK3CD5 ). The God knows whether indecisiveness (policy paralysis) on too many counts is due to #Babudom or #Pappu-dom.
On 11th October 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said: “There has never been such a decisive government in India as it is today.”
ENCORE is the neither the first nor the last instance of Government frittering away growth & jobs creation opportunities due to governance deficit. Like previous regimes, Modi Government has had its own quota of aborted project proposals or premature closure of approved projects. The delays in availing multilateral loans and grants ( https://bit.ly/2XsjDY8) also dampens growth prospects and fiscal management. 
In a document dated 30th July 2020, WB noted: “the Ministry of Finance has approved the Cabinet Note and it is now with the Cabinet Secretariat, waiting for Cabinet approval. The team is looking forward for a speedy approval by the Cabinet to start with project implementation to avoid delays in disbursement and reach to many coastal communities that need the project to revive the economic crisis incurred by COVID 19.”
In a second document dated 8th February 2021, WB stated: “ENCORE effectiveness is forthcoming, pending CCEA approval. We request MOEFCC's continued effort to fast-track the Cabinet review.”
In yet another update on 21st September 2021, WB noted: “the Ministry of Finance has approved the Cabinet Note. The Note is submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat, and waiting for Cabinet approval. There is a significant delay (more than 1.4 years) in project implementation which in turn affected disbursement, and achieving the project objective within the project closing date. The team is looking forward to a speedy approval by the Cabinet to avoid further delays in project disbursement and reach many coastal communities that need the project to revive the economic crisis incurred by COVID 19.”
In a subsequent document dated 24th May 2022, WB pleaded for “MoEFCC’s continued effort to fast-track ENCORE's approval by Cabinet.” As put by WB document, MoEFCC “made a second request for extending the period for the signing of the Loan Agreement by six months following the first extension for signing the Loan Agreement expired on April 30, 2022. The extension of the Loan signing was sought to better align ENCORE's components and activities with the recent government Blue Economy Framework Policy and the National Coastal Mission. Taking into account the very strong and trusted dialogue established on coastal zone management as well as important results that the program can bring to the vulnerable coastal communities of India, the signing for Loan Agreement was extended for 2 months until June 30, 2022.”
ENCORE is designed as an eight-year project under Multiphase Programmatic Approach (MPA). It has two overlapping phases of five years each. These are anchored in National Coastal Mission (NCM).
ENCORE’s Phase II would require investment of $440 million. It would be funded equally as WB loan and as Government’s budgetary support. Maharashtra and Andaman & Nicobar Islands would get opportunity to join 8 other coastal States & 3 UTs under Phase II.
As for $ 689.36-million Fisheries project, it too is awaiting CCEA clearance to pave way for signing/effectiveness of loan agreement. Of the total project cost, $150 million would be WB loan, $ 200 million would be Government's contribution, $289.36 million would be commercial financing and $50 million would be France's aid under a bilateral pact.
According to a WB document, Indian coast is home to more than 250 million people or 14.2 percent of India’s population. NCM estimates the value of blue economy assets at $24 trillion, with an expected annual value addition of $2.5 trillion, making it a major contributor to India’s economic growth and poverty reduction.
                                                          
 
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