Amit Mitra at Nabanna on Friday. Telegraph picture
Calcutta, Jan. 31: The Bengal government has decided to replicate a central matrix that allows continuous monitoring of industrial projects and proceeded to heal an inherited sore that festered partly because there was none to follow through.
The separate decisions, along with peppy pronouncements and some land allotments, gave traction to suggestions that the Mamata Banerjee government is approaching industry with a resolve that was missing in the initial years in office.
Of the two decisions, the first will allow the state to set up a special project monitoring group for speedy implementation of industrial ventures having an investment potential of less than Rs 1,000 crore.
Such a web-based model, called PMG, has been tried out at the Centre for projects worth over Rs 1,000 crore. PMG is not a cure-all pill but it does help reduce uncertainty and hold multiple departments accountable without frequent intervention or coercion from the top.
The second decision, which was taken by the state cabinet, aims to fulfil a commitment made to Mitsubishi, the Japanese chemical giant with a facility in Haldia.
Before Mamata became chief minister, the multinational was promised state incentives on fixed capital investments. But the project in two phases was delayed because of technical reasons and the company could not apply for the incentives in time after the second leg was completed in 2010.
The issue was then left hanging, probably because no one wanted to take a decision either way at a time the industrial weather in Bengal had turned inclement.
The subject had eventually reached the chief minister who entrusted finance minister Amit Mitra to look into it.
The cabinet today decided to honour the spirit of the commitment by clearing the incentive and not quibble about the schedule. Mitsubishi, which has invested around Rs 2,700 crore in Bengal, is expected to get incentives such as electricity duty waiver for five years as well as a refund on value added tax. A government official not involved with the decision said the value of the annual incentive would not cross Rs 50 crore.
“The message the Mamata Banerjee government wants to send out is that Bengal means business and today’s decision is a step in that direction,” Mitra, the industries as well as finance minister, said after announcing the decision on Mitsubishi at Nabanna, the state secretariat.
The morning showed the day. Inaugurating a conference organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs, Mitra had echoed Mamata’s call “shilpa korun, Bangla gorun (build industry, build Bengal)” and called for the spread of incubation centres in all centres of the state. “Enterprise will be the order of the day,” the minister added.
D.P. Patra, the chairman of MCC PTA, the Mitsubishi firm at Haldia, welcomed the move. “We are very happy with the decision,” he said.
Industry observers felt that the decision was well-timed because it coincided with an upswing in Indo-Japanese relations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest on Republic Day.
“Mitsubishi is one of the largest conglomerates of Japan. If such a large player gains confidence in Bengal, more Japanese investors may look at this state positively,” an industrialist said.
The cabinet also approved allotment of land to three food processing companies in Sankrail Food Park. The three companies will invest around Rs 80 crore and create 600 jobs.
Such projects can look forward to smoother take-off if the project monitoring group model is replicated in the state as has happened in eight other states. It will be modelled on the PMG the Centre has set up under the cabinet committee on investments.
Anil Swarup, additional secretary and chairman of the PMG at the Centre, met Bengal chief secretary Sanjay Mitra today to discuss some of the ongoing projects in the state.
“The chief secretary told me that Bengal will also have a group modelled on what we are doing at the Centre. It will be the ninth state to do so,” he said after a meeting with the CII in Calcutta.
The PMG at Delhi is trying to fast-track 419 mega-projects across the country entailing investment of Rs 20 lakh crore.
Under the web-based system, investors enlist their projects that need clearances or have to deal with various ministries like environment and forest, coal and railways.
The PMG meets every week to take stock of projects and interact with investors and the departments concerned.
“Our focus is time-bound implementation. We don’t cut corners, bend rules to fast-track project. We only solicit a timely response from various departments and try to provide out-of-the-box solutions, if possible,” Swarup said.
He said Mitra had agreed to emulate the central model, take the software being used at PMG and send officers from Bengal to learn the ropes. Mitra could not be contacted.
The decision to set up the group comes close on the heels of appointing relationship managers for big projects to fast-track implementation. By creating its own PMG, the state now hopes to closely monitor the smaller projects as well.