Aviation regulator will be toothless in absence of policy: Experts

November 9th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

KPMGNew Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) The Indian government may have cleared the deck for a new regulator for the aviation industry - the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) - but in the absence of a new civil aviation policy, its efficacy remains a question, say industry trackers.India’s proposed aviation policy, which seeks some far-reaching changes in regulations governing the sector, is already delayed by five years, and runs the risk of getting delayed even further with six states going to the polls this year, followed by parliamentary elections early next year, says Marc Martin, senior adviser for aviation at global accounting firm and consultancy KPMG.

“I don’t see the new aviation policy taking shape,” Martin said. “How AERA has to be brought effectively on ground level is again a big task ahead. AERA has to partner with the industry,” he said.

A former regional director of the Airports Authority of India too said AERA would not materialise in the near future.

“It (AERA Bill 2007) is yet to get presidential consent. A notification has to be issued after that; this will be followed by a process for enactment of the regulator at the ground level. All this will take time,” he said.

A committee set up under former civil aviation secretary Naresh Chandra had prepared a blueprint and set the ground rules for the entire aviation sector in November 2003.

But the draft policy had to be deferred as the country went to the polls in early 2004. The new aviation policy has been on hold since then.

The AERA Bill 2007 got India’s cabinet nod in May 2007, but it was cleared by parliament only late last month.

A senior ministry official blamed private airport developers and airline operators for delaying the policy as it would impose restrictions on them.

The airline industry is clueless about AERA’s role. “I have no clue. I can’t say how effective AERA will be in the absence of a clear cut aviation policy,” said Aditya Ghosh, president of low-cost carrier Indigo Airlines.

The ministry official said in the absence of an effective aviation policy, aviation regulator AERA is toothless.

The prime objective of AERA will be to create a level playing field and foster healthy competition among airports, encourage investment in airport facilities, regulate fares and protect the interests of users.

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