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Thursday, Dec 02, 2004

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Bengal keen on funding from multilateral agencies

Our Bureau

The departments concerned were negotiating with the World Bank for a loan of about Rs 4,000 crore for undertaking various infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and power generation and distribution.

Kolkata , Dec. 1

MULTILATERAL funding agencies, including the World Bank, are no longer untouchables to the Left Front Government in West Bengal. In fact, the State Government is now ready to welcome these agencies to help rejuvenate West Bengal's basic infrastructure and also to improve the lives of the average citizens in the State.

This was highlighted by Mr Swapan Chakraborty, Principal Secretary in the State's Planning & Development Department, here on Wednesday while addressing a seminar on `Planning for the future', organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Chakraborty said that the State Government, because of political compulsions, had earlier declined to accept funds from these agencies, but the State's resource position had become so precarious that today it had hardly any choice but to accept assistance from these agencies.

Thus today, the departments concerned were negotiating with the World Bank for a loan of about Rs 4,000 crore for undertaking various infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and power generation and distribution.

The World Bank had also been approached for loans to implement social projects in the rural areas with the objective of generating employment. West Bengal has ambitious plans to become a power exporting State even during peak hours within the next 10 years.

He said that the State was keen on borrowing from multilateral funding agencies because the cost of loans was reasonable. He added that it would not be difficult to fulfil the terms and conditions for availing such loans.

While a section of decision-makers in the State Government was still supporting the concept of State sponsored plans, another section was ready to welcome private investments in different sectors.

He said private investments would be welcomed in areas such as specialised education, hospitals and hotels. The development of basic infrastructure would be carried out by the State with the borrowed funds. The Government's own surplus funds would be deployed in projects intended largely for the rural poor.

Mr Chakraborty said that the State Government had already been assured by the DFID of UK of a liberal line of credit for implementing a total of 67 projects in the State, which include restructuring of the State-run PSUs and rationalisation of workers in those PSUs. The objective was to shed the Government's financial load utilising the UK assistance.

As part of the cost-cutting measures, the State Government had stopped fresh direct recruitment for the last five years. As a result, the expenditure on the salary account has started showing a downward trend.

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