Bengal strives for pro-investor tag

REACHING OUT: Mamata Banerjee with Sanjiv Goenka and 
Shashwat Goenka in Calcutta on Monday. Picture by Sanjay Chattopadhyay

Calcutta: Bengal hopes to earn the tag of the most investor friendly state in India in the near future and grab the top spot in ease of doing business.

According to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the state had climbed up from position 30 a few years back to number three, despite the "legacy" created by the 34-years of Left Front rule.

"I can assure you Bengal will be number one," Banerjee said during a business meet on Monday.

The chief minister was referring to the annual exercise conducted by the central government's department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) where states' potential to attract industry is judged by the volume of administrative reforms carried out by them, cutting red tape.

Under the Business Reform Action Plan, developed in partnership with the World Bank group, the DIPP measures states on 372 items for regulatory process, policies, practices and procedures spread across 12 reform areas.

"In ease of doing business we were 30. Three years back we climbed up to 15. Now we are third in India. Out of the 372 items, we have fulfilled 336 and the rest will be fulfilled in the next few months. I can assure you Bengal will be number 1. We are facing a legacy. That is why it is taking time," Banerjee told over 300 delegates who are in Calcutta to attend the Horasis Asia meet - the two-day industry conference organised jointly by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Bengal government.

The last date for submitting a report on reforms on those 372 parameters is November 30.

The present list of state rankings, where Bengal has slipped to 8th position after reaching the 3rd slot last month, is dynamic and evolving. States can overtake each other if they provide evidence of reforms undertaken in the next few days.

However, the final ranking for 2017 is expected to be published sometime in January after factoring in part the evidences provided by the states and feedback from industry to measure the impact of the reforms on the ground.

Banerjee agreed that perception about Bengal was not good because of the 34 year-long Left Front rule.

"But it has changed now. Our work culture has changed. We don't allow strikes or lock-outs. We maintain best of relation with industry," she said.

"There is a change in the perception about Bengal and it is positive. There is optimism and people are coming. It will take time, but there is a lot of change happening. Today anchor investors are needed. People like JSW, Reliance, the Mahindras and TVS are required. Big ticket investment will drive others. It (Singur) was something that went wrong but now new things have happened and that is much more positive," Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education, said.

There is also a possibility that investor summits will not be limited to Calcutta alone. A business meet will be organised in Darjeeling later this year to showcase north Bengal. The chief minister had indicated her desire to hold such an event during the all-party meeting earlier this month.


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