US Ambassador Nancy Powell’s comment on Bengal was both critical as well as flattering. She said even though West Bengal was not the first place that came to mind when thinking of business and national economy, the state had its own importance.
“For some people West Bengal may not be the first place that comes to mind when talking about business and the national economy. They would rather think of Mumbai, Bangalore or Tamil Nadu perhaps,” Powell said at an event organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday.
However, she was quick to add that Bengal still made sense to her. She said: “While the policy headlines may come out of New Delhi and the business headlines out of Mumbai, it is increasingly apparent that what actually happens in India happens outside New Delhi and Mumbai.”
“The deeper economic, political and social movements – the ones that actually determine where this nation is heading –take place in Raipur, Ranchi, Patna, Durgapur, Siliguri and Kolkata,” she said., adding, "The road to higher growth will require more economic opening and more foreign investment.”
Powell, who was on a two-day visit to the city, said the US and India shared similar goals to encourage domestic manufacturing and industry. "I firmly believe that the most effective way to grow India's manufacturing sector in both the short term and the long run is to make investment in India more attractive, both for domestic and foreign firms alike," she said.
On Monday, Powell had met Mamata over the foreign direct investment in the multi-brand retail segment, an issue over which Trinamool Congress had withdrawn its support to the UPA-II government.
The comment by the US envoy comes at a time when the investment scenario in the state is far from friendly especially when the state government is being repeatedly accused of pursuing anti-industry policies both by investors and the political parties.
Mamata Banerjee’s government has drawn flak over her no-land acquisition and no-SEZ policies. Starved of funds, the finance department has been reluctant to offer matching industrial incentives to potential investors.
According to department of industrial policy and promotion, in 2010-11 (the last year of the Left Front government) the proposed investment in Bengal was Rs 3.02 lakh crore. In 2012-13, the figure has slipped to a mere Rs 1,759 crore.
However, despite the cry for investment, the chief minister has refused to bring in investor-friendly policies. The recent draft industrial policy floated by the state government is once again silent on the land and SEZ issues.