Business activities remained subdued in West Bengal in 2015

December 27, 2015 12:00 am | Updated March 24, 2016 12:23 pm IST - Kolkata:

Expectations are running high from the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit, after a year marked with subdued industrial activities and mounting woes for the traditional jute and tea industries.

The three-day Summit, beginning January 7, is being showcased by the Mamata Banerjee government as a platform to be part of “a new, business-ready Bengal”, after investment commitments to the tune of Rs.2.43 lakh crore received in its last edition in 2015.

The event assumes even larger significance as the year 2015 did not see much industrial activities fructifying on the ground while the State is also headed for Assembly elections in 2016.

Adding to the woes this year, the two main traditional industries -- jute and tea -- showed signs of distress with several workers of closed north Bengal tea estates allegedly succumbing to death due to lack of nutrition. The jute industry was also plagued by a series of lock-outs rendering thousands of workers jobless.

There has not been much buoyancy in the industrial and business scenario of the State ever since the closure of Tata Motors’ small car project at Singur and the ruling Trinamool Congress coming to power in 2011.

The dismal state of finances of West Bengal also came in the way of capital formation to generate assets.

The government’s huge debt burden, a legacy left behind by the past dispensation, also had its effect on the development process. As per the government figures, the State’s debt burden was over Rs.2 lakh crore and Rs 28,000 crore per year was being exhausted due to its servicing.

As a result, the capital expenditure work took a dip, while revenue expenses have been rising with several government-sponsored festivals adding to the costs.

The central government’s repeated requests for a debt restructuring remain unanswered.

On positive side, the State government was able to bolster its own tax revenue substantially this year. From Rs.21,000 crore in 2012, the tax revenue is estimated to rise to Rs.45,000 crore by March 2016, as per the government estimates.

On the other hand, the IT sector also remained lacklustre in terms of new companies setting up base in West Bengal. The government’s decision against SEZs had cost the IT sector heavily, with Infosys and Wipro holding back their plans of setting up a new unit and expansion, respectively.

The land acquisition issues continue to play spoilsport to the possibility of large and medium industries coming here.

To overcome this hurdle, the government has been laying special emphasis on small industries to create jobs.

The weakness in industrial activities is also leading to a sustained brain drain as young job aspirants are moving to places like Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad.

Unlike the last year, the dust generated from the Saradha ponzi probe by the CBI seemed to have settled although the probe agency was yet to submit the final charge-sheet in the court. - PTI

Year marred by deaths in tea gardens, lock-outs in jute units in the State

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