January 22, 2018
Industrialists are betting on a sustainable state and CM: Amit Mitra
Days after business leaders such as L N Mittal, Mukesh Ambani, Sajjan Jindal, and Pranav Adani attended the Bengal Global Business Summit, West Bengal Finance and Industry Minister Amit Mitra, in an interview decodes the success behind the summit and the achievements of his government.
Q: What is the biggest takeaway from the investors’ summit?
AM: The further addition of confidence and connect with West Bengal shown by the highest brands of India. The second element is that international participation peaked.
Q: Is that an endorsement of transformation of West Bengal or Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee?
AM: Investment goes where there is stability. Industrialists have sensed that the decision-making process in the state is transparent and stems right from the top. It is personal confidence in Mamata Banerjee. They see a sustainable chief minister who will continue so they know they can bet on the state. Plus, West Bengal is at the top in ease of doing business. There has been a tectonic shift in the macroeconomic scenario. In 2010-11, the year before we came to office, GDP at current prices was Rs 472.64 billion. The actuals in 2015-16 were already Rs 10,097.32 billion, which, in 2016-17, if you take the revised estimates (RE), went up to Rs12,093.40 billion. This kind of phenomenal growth in GDP is also borne out by constant prices, where West Bengal is far above India.
Q: What has led to this growth?
AM: We focused on capital expenditure. So capital expenditure in 2010-11 in plan expenditure was Rs 22.25 billon. Capital expenditure in 2016-17 (RE) is Rs 152.19 billion. For us, it means two things. One is, it releases the Keynesian multiplier, and therefore, GDP grows. With GDP growth, automatically, jobs happen.
Two, plan expenditure grew 3.5 times during this period. Capital expenditure means creating hard assets — schools, colleges, roads, waterworks — which is Keynesian multiplier-friendly. It is also in a way job-intensive because when you make capital expenditure, you need cement.
After we came to office, four cement plants have come to Bengal. We have Dalmia, then Emami, in our own industrial park, and JSW Cement, which the chief minister recently inaugurated. Shree Cement is starting to build its factory and it’s very big, with an investment of Rs10 billion. We are probably becoming a major cement hub of the country. BASF of Germany has quietly come and set up a constructions chemical plant because it connects with construction.
Tata Hitachi told me last week that it has excess demand for construction equipment.So it has expanding. It already has 500 acres. These are the interconnections.
Q: You are also planning to complete the chain in petrochemicals?
AM: Haldia Petrochemicals was practically closed when we came to office, functioning at 10 per cent capacity, and sometimes not. We were able to intensively turn it around. We still hold a good amount of equity. But the private equity holder, who had a large share, is now at 50.4 per cent. He has paid Rs 6.53 billion to the state government by market-contested price discovery method. Mitsubishi Chemicals has been bought by Purnendu Chatterjee. What was wrong with Mitsubishi Chemicals was that it didn’t have downstream. Alok Lohia, who was here in petrochemicals, has entered into a partnership with Dhunseri, which is producing PET bottles at Mitsubishi plants. We are motivating him and Chatterjee to produce a continuous polymerisation plant. The investment will not be much, around Rs 20 billion, but there is potential to create 500,000 jobs.
Q: So last year the focus was on refinery and this year it is downstream?
AM: Refinery is the first focus. It is a game changer because a refinery produces a large number of chemicals, which neither Haldia Petrochemicals nor Mitsubishi produces. Refinery is a bigger space, which is under consideration and the land is being organised.
Q: Do you have the land for the electronics manufacturing complex that Mukesh Ambani mentioned?
AM: Not much land is required, 100 acres. In Kharagpur, I have 500 acres, in Panagarh 700 acres, and in Raghunathpur 1,000 acres. I have 4,400 acres in my industrial parks. There is no issue with land.
Q: Adani is looking at investing Rs 100 billion in the state?
AM: That is a power-related project. But he mentioned ports and food processing. So if that is factored in, it could be a much bigger play.
Source: Business Standard