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Public utility status sought for export units in Bengal

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EXPORT units in the State should get public utility status so that they remain outside the purview of strikes and bandhs which have been plaguing West Bengal.

Addressing the valedictory session of the two-day CII Export Summit here on Wednesday, Mr Rakesh Shah, all-India Vice-President of the Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC), said along with this support measure, the State Government should also re-examine the taxes on inputs for export production.

Highlighting the States' role in export promotion under the changed international trade scenario, he said agri products and services were some of the new engines of growth for exports. While welcoming the setting up of Agri Export Zones in States with private sector participation, as per the new Exim policy dispensation, he cautioned against spreading the resources on this count too thin.

He said the required export growth of around 12 per cent on a year-on-year basis to achieve $80-billion exports by 2007 may prove difficult to sustain give the huge cost disadvantage faced by Indian exporters. A key element of this is the finance cost for exporters, he pointed out.

Suggesting that export finance at a cheaper rate should be made available to exporters, he said the woes of exporters are further compounded by the mounting transaction costs, which render Indian exports uncompetitive in the global arena.

He said the still-awaited DGFT-Customs online connectivity under EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) system would go a long way in reducing transaction cost for exporters.

On the forex front, he said while the appreciating rupee was good for the economy, it was not so good for exports, as even developed countries like the US and Japan promote a weak currency policy to boost exports. He, however, admitted that currencies of competing countries have also appreciated, making their exports costly.

Countering Mr Shah's viewpoint on AEZs, that resources should not be spread too thin, Mr Sabyasachi Sen, Principal Secretary, Commerce and Industries, Government of West Bengal, in his keynote address, said West Bengal was already setting up five AEZs, and one more exclusively for Darjeeling tea was under consideration. He said the suggestion for according public utility status to all individual export units in the State would be examined.

Appreciating the Union Government move to convert all EPZs into Special Economic Zones (SEZs), he informed that a new SEZ policy for the State was already on the anvil. Appreciating the point made by Mr Shah that greater inter-ministerial co-ordination was the key to implementation of the Exim policy prescriptions, Mr Sen said West Bengal too suffered from a similar malaise as far as the inter-departmental clearances were concerned.

Commenting on the proposed new State export policy (within the overall national policy) to be announced soon, he said the State Government would function as a facilitator of exports, and accordingly infrastructure-related development works at all Land Customs Stations and ports would be taken up in right earnest.

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