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FICCI frames agenda for development of Bengal

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The federation wants a master plan for the development of industry.

Kolkata , Aug. 15

THE Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has chalked out a six-point action plan agenda for West Bengal to climb the value chain rapidly, on the basis of a SWOT analysis prepared by the chamber's think-tank.

The analysis is built on the premise that if other States, with lesser built-in advantages could steam ahead, Bengal, with a huge plus by way of high quality intellectual capital and favourable SDP quotient, at this point of time should have been way ahead in the globalisation matrix.

According to FICCI, Bengal, as part of the `Look East' policy, needs to pull its weight like never before, especially when FTAs are being signed at its doorstep. The chamber called for a master plan for the development of industry, particularly the chemicals, pharmaceuticals and knowledge-based industries, and tourism related activities.

On the threat perception, it listed the climbing rate of industrial disputes, leading to loss of man-days in the State (there were 205 disputes in 2003), as a major negative point.

Making a presentation on `Globalisation: Threats & opportunities for West Bengal', at an interactive session organised by the Eastern Regional Council of FICC here on Friday, Dr Amit Mitra, Secretary General of the chamber, identified "logistical development" of Bengal into a transport corridor stretching from Punjab and Rajasthan in the north to Madhya Pradesh in central India to Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet and the entire North East region as a thrust area.

Dr Mitra said the State had the advantage of a well developed and strategic rail network, inland waterways and port infrastructure, and "like the Netherlands for Europe, West Bengal's ports can support trade and commerce from India to South East Asia.

Dr Mitra said the administration's efforts should be on developing an "international financial architecture in Kolkata".

Appreciating the Sate Government's steps to attract investments in the manufacturing sector, he said it was time efforts were made to attract FDI in the financial sector for turning Kolkata into a financial hub for a globalised economy. It is necessary to attract banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, mutual funds and financial services companies to set up their South Asian headquarters in Kolkata, Dr Mitra said.

He said given the abundant water resources in the State and the ideal climatic conditions for growing vegetables and flowers, the Government should concentrate on developing horticulture, floriculture and the marine products export zones in a big way, taking a leaf out of Holland's book. Holland is the sole supplier of flowers to the US, and grows them in covered hot houses. According to FICCI, Bengal had the potential to multiply the production of mango, pineapple, banana, papaya, oranges, guava and litchi.

Pointing out that Bengal should be developed as a centre of excellence for education, Dr Mitra said all the major educational institutions in the State must be developed as such centres, and seats should be offered to students from South East Asia, China and the Middle East.

West Bengal, according to the FICCI action plan, can also attract high value international tourists.

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