Sovereign wealth fund for overseas energy assets

The government is planning to create a multi-billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund to invest in energy assets such as oil, gas and coal across the world. "The plans are at a very initial stage. A decision on this would be taken after the budget,' Planning Commission energy adviser Surya P Sethi said here. "The fund, if set up, will invest in overseas oil, gas and coal assets.' Sethi did not give any idea of the possible size of the fund, but said: "It has to be in billions of dollars.' According to the latest data available with the Reserve Bank of India, the country's foreign exchange reserves stood at about $290.8 billion for the weekended February 8, up 57% from a year earlier. A sovereign wealth fund comprises assets such as stocks, bonds and other financial instruments, which is owned and managed by the government. The funds are deployed overseas for higher returns. The fund will be on the lines of Temasek Holdings, a sovereign wealth fund owned by the Singapore government. Officials are of the view that low returns on investments in US treasury bills and other sovereign securities did not cover the costs of maintaining huge forex reserves, and justified establishing a fund that could deliver higher returns. Last year, state-run India Infrastructure Finance Co Ltd set up an offshore unit in London to use part of the country's reserves to help local Companies import equipment for infrastructure projects. The corpus of this fund is $5 billion. The central bank has previously expressed reluctance at using forex reserves to set up an investment fund as it said the build-up in reserves was largely to insulate the Economy from the impact of huge capital inflows, which could be reversed at short notice.