Will any of the ‘big boys’ actually put their money where their mouth is and make the investments promised/announced? We should do a reality check – what percentage or how much of the indicated investments of the previous Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) 2018 have fructified – Rs 2,43,100 crore in 2015, Rs 2,50,253 in 2016 and Rs 2,35,290 in 2017?
Particularly the non Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) and Central government sums, which often end up being included in the announced figures.
A Remedy for Bengal’s Economic Issues
This not to undermine the state government’s effort (it seems to have become a trend amongst all states now; pretty much doing the same thing), but think we should do a deep dive to understand why the previous numbers have fallen short or promised investments have not come in.
Moreover, we must offer a remedy, such that going forward we learn and succeed in bringing in a significant percentage. If anything remotely close to what’s been announced over the last three years had indeed come in, West Bengal would have become a land of flowing milk and honey, with the economy growing in triple digits, besides becoming a leader in indices such as HDI and HHI.
Let me caveat by adding that the state government is working hard on social parameters, and some initiatives, such as Kanyashree Prakalpa, have indeed borne incredible fruit (received the first prize at the UN Public Service Award 2017).
We need to bring the same zeal into the area of business and industry – I am not sure BGBS as a standalone event is enough or works beyond setting the tone. It’s no more than a successful political meeting /rally where lakhs of people congregate – but that’s not enough to win an election, is it? It’s only part of the process, and a precursor to the entire effort at the hustings.
Similarly, the ‘carry or see it through’ attitude is the key – the need is to appoint a team under the leadership of a senior civil servant reporting directly to the Chief Minister, which will ensure that promised investments are executed, and the state does its part.
Let us not forget that it’s only if trade and industry take off that the state will generate funds from collections for all its wonderful social projects (20 percent of the 95 million population continues to be poor).
Spending on those (much needed) without matching revenue will only worsen the debt trap Bengal finds itself in.
Big Guns Continue to Grace Bengal
People wonder why the ‘big boys’ show up in Bengal and make the statements that they do. My sense is that our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is very persuasive, and it’s tough to turn down a personal request from her.
While her party may be in the Opposition, it is politically relevant with a large number of Members of Parliament in both houses of the legislature; their number may even increase in 2019. It is good business sense to be on her right side.
On a lighter note, during my childhood years and until recently, businessmen jostled and jockeyed to get a photograph clicked with serving ministers – in the new millennium, I find the roles are somewhat reversed – politicians posing with businessman and taking selfies to enhance their own credibility and stature!