West Bengal economy looks up

Compared to the Union Government, West Bengal economy is on firmer ground. The Centre is trying frantically to get foreign direct investment which remains as elusive as ever. Last year, the Government permitted cent per cent FDI in domestic trading of food products. Now it is going to allow overseas retailers to operate in India. There is a rider though: they can sell only ‘made in India’ products. The simple question is, if the domestic retailers are unable to boost sales, how are the foreign operators expected to do better in the Indian market than the Indian sellers?
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, on the other hand, has said that the State has been successful in attaining several objectives. Market borrowing has been kept within the limit defined by the FRBM Act. The State can borrow up to Rs. 38,000 crore in a financial year, but actually borrowed Rs. 26,000 crore in the first nine months of the current fiscal. The limit will not be exceeded in the next three months. Earlier, fresh loans had to be taken to pay back the arrear loan. This practice has stopped now. The Chief Minister has volunteered the information that despite heavy unilateral reductions made by the Centre on centrally-sponsored schemes like the ICDS and Aasha, the State Government has been financing schemes like Kanyashree, Yuvashree and Sabujsaathi. The State’s own revenue has also gone up during the past year. Earning from excise duty has increased by 93 per cent.
This is an impressive record card. The main challenge is a boost to industrialization of the State. The Chief Minister is doing her level best to attract investment for starting new industries the scenario is not very bright. Without industrialization the State cannot generate employment and can’t even widen its revenue base. As a party, the Trinamool Congress is committed to give incentives to small and medium industries which are capital light and labour intensive.  The economic policies being pursued by the Centre have only deepened the crisis as is being admitted grudgingly. The Prime Minister promised to generate two crore jobs per year but that has remained a fond dream. Rather, demonetization and introduction of GST have taken away the jobs of millions in the small and medium sectors. In comparison, West Bengal has given a better account of itself. On the basis of past experience there is no doubt that the State will have to depend on its own revenue instead of expecting much from the Centre. How best and how quickly this can be done is the main challenge before the State.

Monday, 15 January, 2018