The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More Buddhas: Business
State gets third rank in investment climate

Calcutta, April 18: Corporate Bengal recognises improvement in the state government's performance, but also feels a progressive chief minister is not good enough ' mindsets have to change down the line.

According to a survey conducted by the Indian Chamber of Commerce across various industry segments, a lot of work still needs to be done to make Bengal investor-friendly.

About half the respondents felt the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government's role in bringing about a change in the investment climate has been marginal.

Only 14 per cent thought the government's promotion of the state in international forums was adequate, 35 per cent saw it as not good enough.

Some 40 per cent of industrialists also felt Bengal should be better promoted at the national level, especially in non-IT sectors.

'The state does not need to overtly market the investment climate abroad. Instead, more time should be spent nurturing the business environment internally as the ease with which existing operations are conducted would provide valuable word-of-mouth promotion. This way, the state could lead by real examples rather than paper presentations,' said Aditya Khaitan, the mana-ging director of McLeod Russell India.

Corporate Bengal ranked the state third after Gujarat and Maharashtra on investment climate.

Another great factor going for Bengal is that 59 per cent of the respondents said corruption was not a hindrance to industrial growth in the state.

The ghosts that keep revi- siting Bengal and whom the chief minister has often tried to drive away made an appearance in the survey.

Bandhs and strikes ' though they are far less frequent than they used to ' and differences between the Left parties and the government over whether or not to oppose them are an area of concern.

Talking of the primary expectations from a new government, 82 per cent felt bold measures must be taken to tackle bandhs and illegal strikes.

A massive 75 per cent felt 'irresponsible' trade union activity should be dealt with in a more aggressive manner.

S.B. Ganguly, the chairman of Exide Industries, does not, however, believe bandhs and strikes can undo the government's work.

'A lot of the negative perceptions, sometimes exaggerated, have been wiped out. The industrial juggernaut roaring through the state would eventually take care of the rest,' he said.

Responding to questions about areas where the state government fell short of expectations, 61 per cent pointed at healthcare and 56 per cent at education.

Bhattacharjee, too, has picked out these two as the prickly points.

The government, 46 per cent said, could do more on employment, 39 per cent thought rural infrastructure was lacking and 37 per cent felt the government did not deli-ver in terms of foreign direct investment.

Only 10 per cent felt grassroots political functionaries have the government's 'proactive mindset' and 12 per cent thought trade unions shared its vision.

'Perceptions cannot be changed overnight. A start has been made and the way is being shown by senior government officials, including the chief minister. It will happen when industrial revival generates more income which percolates to the lowest rung, instilling work culture at all levels,' said businessman Harsh Neotia.

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