The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Business rim, via Bengal

Calcutta, Nov. 8: The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has proposed to set up a Bay of Bengal Rim joining Tamil Nadu with the Asean countries through Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Ficci national executive committee, which met here today, proposed the state government to prepare a long-term vision so that it can play a major role in the Rim.

“We have already communicated our proposal to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who addressed the committee in the morning,” said Ficci president R.S. Lodha.

On what led to the setting up of another trade group, secretary-general Amit Mitra said: “We have seen groupings like Nafta, Asean and others control 65 per cent of world trade. So we felt the need to set up a group in this part of the world that will strengthen maritime relationships and promote trade.”

Moreover, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been promoting a “look East” policy of late. The move towards setting up of a free-trade zone in the Asean region will give a greater boost to our concept of a Bay of Bengal Rim, Mitra said.

Ficci has given a three-pronged prescription to the Bengal government to solve its financial crisis.

Mitra said the government needs to address immediately its massive salary bills, high interest burden and restructure its pubic sector undertakings.

Ficci has suggested a time-bound programme to reduce the salary bills and the interest burden on existing debts and asked the government to make a one-time provision for accumulated losses of the state’s undertakings.

“Around 110 per cent of the state’s revenue goes into salary and interest payments,” Mitra said. If these costs are cut, “it will enable the government generate resources for the much-needed infrastructure development,” said Lodha.

Ficci will also help the government set up special economic zones. “We have the expertise in setting up SEZs and marketing of products,” Lodha said.

The government is already planning to set up a special economic zone, either at Haldia or Kulpi, along with a mini port.

To help the state attract investments, Ficci is bringing in a 20-member high-powered Japanese delegation to the city on December 20. The delegation will have representatives from most major Japanese companies.

The federation will also bring in its task force on entertainment, led by filmmaker Yash Chopra, to Calcutta on November 29 to look into investment opportunities.

Bhattacharjee presented the routine report card on the state’s industrial growth before the Ficci panel today. “Since 1991, a total of 2,936 industries have got approvals for a projected investment of Rs 59,405 crore in the state. Out of this, 613 projects, involving Rs 21,400 crore, have been implemented,” he claimed.

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