Political expediency has gained such a powerful grip on cabinet decisions that even valuable ones often tend to be victims of political spin in our mainstream media: News channels and newspapers excitedly report “differences” within the government based on constructively critical notes exchanged between ministries.In the case of the one on the recently proposed National Investment Board (NIB), however, the differences between the Minister for Environment and Forests, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister seem justified.On the surface, the concept of NIB is intelligent thinking. It is conceptualised specifically to expedite projects worth over Rs 1,000 crore—most of which, expectedly, are infrastructure-related. More than 100 such projects are pending clearances or delayed for avoidable reasons. Stringent environmental norms and sometimes unrealistic forest rules are the biggest factor. Experts hoped that it would take on the role of a single window, but the Cabinet Note has only succeeded in causing confusion.In what seems like a hastily prepared Cabinet Note, the NIB’s function includes taking over when there is a “failure to act” on the part of a ministry. Such language was bound to ruffle feathers since it threatens the sometimes-divergent principles on which ministries operate. “This concept is unacceptable”, says Minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s note to the PM, “[since] the NIB has no constitutional or legal authority to decide upon the failure of any Minister.”Indeed, it is the divergence—conflict, even—of interests that the NIB needs to address—not presumed incompetence. And lo and behold, the one ministry that comes to mind—the MoEF—reacted strongly. While Natarajan, under the PM’s mandate, has been more liberal in clearing projects, clearance issues are often embedded in the function of the Ministry itself. Given the constitutional mandate to the Ministry—to protect the integrity of the environment, forests and wildlife—the conflict between industry and environment will prevail. Meanwhile, green activists are already sharpening their swords, calling NIB autocratic and anti-environment.It is not insignificant that the NIB is now called the Cabinet Committee on Investment. Can NIB, therefore, take on the function of clearances and become a de facto single-window body for investments? Can it be made into a body that can suggest and help implement key changes in cumbersome and time-consuming rules, such as the one that requires a pipeline contractor to obtain permission from each Panchayat that it passes through?For infrastructure projects, land acquisition, whether through government agencies or private, will remain a sticky issue. Private entrepreneurs often prefer the government to do that part of the work, and in PPP projects, it is a routine clause for the government to offer the land. But as land acquisition gets trickier—and costlier—by the day, NIB can endorse what sometimes independent experts suggest—to create land banks and identify portions of forests in advance that can be converted.In other words, NIB should be the body that can finally, and tangibly, distinguish between industry and infrastructure projects—and then go on to review clearances from a socio-developmental perspective. Once that clarity is obtained, the conflict of interest will be mitigated to a large extent.