Call it split-personality disorder, U-turn or what you will. The state government's doublespeak on special economic zones (SEZs), agro-retail trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) is now a well-documented fact. Doing Business in West Bengal, a policy-statement booklet brought out recently by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), has found new virtues in all three despite the Left Front’s well-known reservations on them.
The CPI(M) Central Committee meeting in Kolkata on January 1 had reiterated its strong opposition to the entry of retail MNCs like Wal-Mart, saying their arrival would deal a body blow to many small, subsistence-level retailers. Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, had wondered in October: “Why do we need Wal-Mart to come? I am not prepared at this moment to accept such a proposal. We will need some time to take a decision.”
The official booklet sings an altogether different tune: “All types of retailing activities in the state is to be encouraged.” The retail market in West Bengal “is looking forward to a very prosperous time in the next few years with a lot of investment in the pipeline. Global retailing giants like Wal-Mart (USA), Carrefour (France), Metro AG (Germany) and a lot more have expressed their interest to open their outlets in the state,” it says.
As if on a cue, Metro AG of Germany has already set up shop in the state and Wal-Mart has acquired land and real estate to launch its retail business.
The WBIDC gloats over the fact that Indian retail giants like Pantaloons and Westside are already doing roaring business through their 'cash-and-carry' shops in the state. Other mega players like Reliance, ITC and McDonalds are coming soon.
The booklet is more forthright on the question of FDI. “Fifty-one per cent FDI permission is also granted to the state and, hence, all types of retail sector giants (both national and international) have free entry into this sector,” it says.
In a bid to woo big business to this sector, the booklet, showcases the retail market boom in Bengal, its growing urbanisation, brand consciousness, increasing per capita income and huge markets just waiting to be tapped.