The Telegraph
Monday , December 24 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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All’s not lost, Ficci tells Bengal and offers tips

New Delhi, Dec. 23: The Bengal government needs to instill business confidence to attract investments, newly appointed Ficci president Naina Lal Kidwai said.

“The government has to look beyond Calcutta. Roads, research and development facilities, ports and hospitals have to be set up. The government’s plans need to be clear,” Kidwai said. The state needs to provide better road, air and sea connectivity.

Kidwai, who is also HSBC’s India head, said improved infrastructure, better R&D facilities and seamless connectivity would ensure rapid investments.

“All is not lost in Bengal. The government is trying to cut down red tape, strikes and labour hassles have come down and there is no dearth of highly skilled labour. Industry needs to see the potential of the state,” she said.

Last week, Ficci submitted a 10-year road map to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to revive textiles and ensure balanced and inclusive growth.

The report, called Vision 2022-23, talks about doubling Bengal’s share in India’s textiles industry to 10 per cent by 2022-23 from 5.24 per cent and increasing the size of the industry in the state to $21.5 billion from $2.9 billion.

“Bengal has everything required to become market leader in textiles internationally. Skilled labour is available at competitive rates; geographically it can become a supply hub to the whole of Southeast Asia. All that is needed is a fair bit of investments from the government as well as market leaders setting up shop in the state,” Kidwai said.

The state has a long history and tradition in textiles. However, the sector is lagging behind Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Mamata recently visited New Delhi to woo industrialists to invest in the state. Though industry leaders listened to her investment pitch, not many revealed any concrete plans.

“We listened to what the chief minister had to say. She has come out with a number of plans. But as of now, we are not planning to invest in Bengal,” said Onkar Singh Kanwar, chairman of Apollo Tyres, who was part of the around 40 industrialists who met Mamata.

Last month, Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee had claimed that the state government had received 222 investment proposals worth Rs 1,09,529 crore, with a potential to create jobs for over 3 lakh people.

Kidwai said Mamata’s “vision for tourism and how Bengal is the next Goa and Switzerland is not lost on us”.

However, industry executives said Mamata needed to come up with concrete plans.

“The idea is quite good, but the government needs to support it with a business model such as if they want to bring in infrastructure on a public-private-partnership model or otherwise,” said Anil Bhandari, chairman of AB Smart Concepts and former chairman of ITDC.