Investment at Bengal Business Summit hits all-time low

President Pranab Mukherjee with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
With no Union minister present to project the state as a preferred investment destination and demonetisation hitting the small-scale cash-based industries hard, West Bengal could attract investment commitments only worth Rs 2,35,290 crore at the 2017 edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit, the lowest since the branding of the state’s business potential kicked off.


The investment proposals this year is lower by 6 per cent as compared to the previous year, when the state secured commitments worth Rs 2,50,253.74 crore.


The 2017 edition of the summit lacked participation from the top doyens of the industry in the backdrop of the ongoing worsening of the Centre-state relations after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee scaled up her protest against demonetisation.


Blaming the Centre’s demonetisation for a dampened investment scenario, she opined, “It has been a good investment figure in times of re and demonetisation,” emphasising that the small-scale sector, the traders, farmers and other cash-based sectors have taken a hit.


This year, the focus of West Bengal lay in the start-up and the MSME segment, apart from core sectors such as infrastructure, power, manufacturing and others. However, it was able to secure participation from 29 only foreign countries that had shown initial interest to take up projects in the state.


Banerjee claimed that China is considering an investment of Rs 27,200 crore for an elevated mass rapid transport project and other infrastructural investments, while Norway has shown interest in the maritime segment. Italy is also keen on the leather and manufacturing verticals while Japan, which is already executing several projects in the state, including metro rail, is also keen on the social sector. South Korea, too, has signed an MoU with the West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation for a green city project.


“Major foreign investments are coming in. They (foreign countries) will discuss among themselves and then decide”, she said.


At the conclusion of the two-day summit, investment intentions worth Rs  61,765 crore was announced, while Rs 50,710 crore proposals were received for the MSME segment. The urban development segment has generated expressions of interest worth Rs 46,600 crore and the transport segment drew in proposals worth Rs 38,801 crore.


Since the last two Bengal Global Business Summits, the state has attracted a consolidated investment of about Rs 4,93,000 crore, of which 40 per cent has been claimed by the state government to be under implementation.


Banerjee, however, termed the summit as a bridge building exercise between West Bengal’s and foreign countries’ investors and urged the participating countries to invite investors from her state as well.


While West Bengal has been focussing on the MSME and start-up segment to fast-track investment in the state, investors like Sunil Kanoria, vice chairman of Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited, opined that these segments needs to be highlighted as these are the key strengths of West Bengal.


“It is a right move by the state government to focus on these sectors. If we have strength in these, let’s exploit it”, Kanoria, who is also the president of industry body Assocham, said.


According to Kanoria, the manufacturing sector will be of little help in the state to create jobs.

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