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Topic:  ECONOMIC SCENARIO
             WEST BENGAL – A GENERAL REVIEW
Date:   3rd March 2005
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30th Sept 2005
6th May 2005


1) India accounts for a meager 2.4 per cent of the world surface area yet it sustains a whooping 16.7 per cent of the world population, a little over 1 billion people residing in 29 states and 6 Union Territories. The variation across these states and territories is enormous in regard to physical geography, culture, and economic conditions. Some states have achieved rapid economic growth in recent years, while others have languished.

2) India, which sustains 17% of world population approx. 1.2 billion and deeply embedded scientific, mathematical traditions, has the potential to emerge as a global economic powerhouse in the next millenium. However challenges lies converting available human resources into enriched human capital base suitable for the dynamics of the present day challenges. The final challenges lies in training and reculturizing our billion populations, a high % of which is young generation suitable for third revolution (after Agri & IT).

3) Out of the 29 states West Bengal is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse states of India.The people of India inherit their identity and aspirations from the larger Indian mosaic and from the civilizations across the shore. Different ethnicity, religion, languages and culture adds to this rich landscape and unifies the people instead of separating them. West Bengal has the brightest record of maintaining communal harmony since independence

4) West Bengal has a well-developed communication network encompassing an extensive railway system, domestic and international airports, modern ports, national highway, etc. The state has a strategic location for global growth with land, air and sea routes to major global cities including the Pacific rim and the thriving South East Asian megalopolises. The State's natural wealth is amongst the best in the country.

5) State West Bengal has a huge reservoir of talent. The premier institutes provide quality talent, which is the greatest asset of our state. In addition, a significant number of English-speaking graduates are coming out every year in the state. The government of West Bengal has set up an academic council to address the needs of the industry and bridge the gap between demand and supply of talent.

6) The conscious policy of land reforms along with the simultaneous support in terms of provision of non-land inputs, such as irrigation facilities, improved seeds, fertilizers etc. as also the process of democratic decentralisation through the Panchayati Raj System brought about a major breakthrough in the sphere of agriculture and allied sectors. As a result, the highest rate of growth of food-grains production, as well as the highest rate of growth in per hectare yield of food grains has now been achieved in West Bengal as compared to all the other States in India.

7) India’s amazing strides in the field of agriculture and the recent thrust of biotechnology stem from the knowledge pool which West Bengal (WB) is proud of. It is well known the achievement have been made possible through combination of technological breakthrough and application technologies pioneered by ICAR, agricultural universities including the allied agriculture research stations. WB contribution in this field has been acknowledged and the ‘Political Will’ of the people have been reflected in the land reforms activities successfully implemented in the state at the grass root level. The new million now holds the potential for the second green revolution with the convergence Agri / Biotechnology / Genomics and IT knowledge base.

8) There has also been a corresponding increase in the purchasing power of the vast majority of common people in rural areas. This has created a new market for consumption of industrial products in West Bengal. Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, is currently witnessing a boom in the retail sector. With numerous clubs, a vibrant tradition of theatre, art galleries, amusement parks, golf courses, turf club and cinema halls, Kolkata truly offers a wide range of recreational facilities. Social infrastructure has improved at a faster rate than physical infrastructure in the state.

9) Considering the importance of the potential for generating employment and income all over the State by harnessing local resources and skill, a conscious policy for promotion of cottage and small-scale industries on an extensive scale was evolved. Simultaneously, policy initiatives were taken to promote the establishment of electronics industry in the State.

10) From being a power-deficit state in the early 1980s, West Bengal today has surplus power. Several new power projects are under implementation. Power tariffs are reasonable. This has triggered the resurgence of Durgapur belt by setting Ferro Alloy plants / Sponge Iron plant. In IT, West Bengal has aggressively joined the race, seeking to become one of the top 3 IT destinations by capturing 15-20% of the country’s total IT revenues by 2009-10. The state government’s new IT Policy, 2003, has declared IT as a “public utility service”, which will enable all IT companies in the state to operate on a 24x7x365 model.

11) The state is witnessing a banking revival too. The percentage share of the banking & insurance sector in West Bengal’s NSDP at constant (1993-94) prices grew from 7.43% in 1996-97 to 12.23% in 2001-02.

12) While high technology IT development might itself make a small contribution to total output and on its own has limited impact on productivity and competitiveness and standard of living but its real impact on its ‘multiplier’ effect on the economy. The IT professionals demand for ‘Better Infrastructure’ have in effect trigger the development of ‘New Kolkata’ and it would continue to do in the future also. Emergences of small towns like Gurgaon / Noida are recent example of such multiplier effect accelerating the progress of the economy as a whole. . The engineering industry covering Mechanical, Electrical and Electronics, Telecommunication & Instrumentation engineering, transport equipments and miscellaneous mechanical goods and precision instruments will be major recipient of multiplier effect as new IT enabled services would be put into use.

13) With population in the developed/developing countries living longer and demanding more health care services at reasonable cost, WB can be the destination of such facilities with 30% cost advantage, considering the travel and allied cost. If the same can be tried with medical tourism activities and health resorts activities it would be a win win situation for the service providers and service recipients.

14) Worldwide ‘Entertainment’ is the fastest growing industries, a potential we can realize now. From TV Channels and their programming to the hosting of ‘Internal Pageants’, WB has the required pool of talents and human resources to package entertainment on a gigantic scale.

15) West Bengal is highly attractive to investors because of its fundamental business advantages. These are: one, the size and wealth of its markets; two, the quality of certain key resources, such as its agriculture, its people and its culture; three, the positive impact of a relatively low competitive intensity, and four, the government’s increasingly pro-investor stance.

16) West Bengal surely will get advantage from the agreement on economic co-operation that has been recently signed by India and China. West Bengal's locational advantage and that the opening up of the trade route to China through Nathula Pass would strengthen the State's locational advantage as it can re-emerge as a natural transshipment point for the old silk route. With bright prospects of barrier free trade with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan under the umbrella of the SAARC the state is destined to play a key role as the true economic hub of the sub-continent.

17) West Bengal is in proximity to the coal belt, which is the biggest factor in favour of booming steel making sector. This will trigger a setting up of allied manufacturing sector. A new breed of first-generation bengali industrialists have entered into the manufacturing sector and many of the new projects are being promoted by people from Bengal, which indicates the changing mindset of Bengal people.

In addition to coal the ‘Gas Reserves’ in Sundarban Area, which is being assessed by ONGC if probed to be positive will irrevocably change the reserve base and industrial/economic scenario of the state. The gas imports through Bangladesh, would also have the same effect. ONGC efforts for ‘Gasification of Coal’ in the mine itself including extraction of Methane Gas from the wal mines are positive signal.



CONSTRAINTS

The ideological limitation as a legacy of the past and long list of failures in the past creating despondency and frustration, are the main physiological block to the future progress.

No infusion of fresh ideas through inducting new generation leadership is forthcoming resulting stagnation of ideas/ideological deficiency not at all matching to the ground realities of the present age. Respect to the knowledge power is lacking resulting continuance of muscle power over Intellectual power withholding progress in real sense.

Manufacturing sector which was the backbone of industrial achievement till recent past is not getting its due attention due to prolonged and willful neglect of the authorities in power to arrest the industrial/economic growth W. Bengal.


WAY FORWARD :-

The core strength are the talent pool of the people and the resources base of the state which can not be written off /postponed for ever. It would reappear from ashes and bad legacy of the past and would occupy its rightful place in near future. The constraints would be accepted as challenges by the new generation political leadership and convert into opportunity in not so distant future.

                                                                                        
Texpro (India) team members brain storming

 

 
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