The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 27 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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FM role in Bengal revival

New Delhi, March 26: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet Bengal ministers, bureaucrats and corporate honchos in Calcutta on Sunday to work out ways to bring the state back on the development track.

Assocham, which has been studying the growth prospects of the state, will organise the meeting called “Bengal Calling”, with a view to channelising business into the state. It has conducted a number of studies to assess business opportunities and identify the reasons behind the poor health of industry in the state.

Around 200 business leaders are likely to attend the meet, including the heads of the Kanoria group, Piramal group, Jindal Steel, Assam Tea and Videocon.

Among the top bureaucrats and policy-makers will be RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarn, Debashish Sen, Bengal’s principal secretary in the department of urban development, and textile commissioner D. Bandyopadhyay.

According to Assocham, Bengal has the potential to achieve a double-digit growth rate. “We are going to suggest different strategies to the government as well as industry. The share of industrial activity in the state domestic product (SDP) has been falling. The development of the manufacturing sector has enormous growth and employment implications. Moreover, Bengal is home to traditional handicraft and small-scale industries,” an Assocham official said. The share of industry in Bengal’s SDP was 20.3 per cent in 2005-06 and fell to 18.8 per cent in 2009-2010.

According to the industry association, the state needs to focus on the cluster approach to develop micro and small-scale industries. Bengal has an enormous scope for developing machine tools, petrochemical downstream processing, leather, electronics, information and technology, and food processing clusters.

“The government needs to formulate a policy to revitalise manufacturing through the creation of clusters. The enabling framework for realising this objective needs to be put in place on an urgent basis,” the official said.

According to Assocham, the reduction in trade transaction costs would help in the development of infrastructure. It said Bengal needed to constitute a maritime board, a single window agency, to develop ports and inland waterways.