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September 19, 2016

Centre yet to sanction part of ADB loan to Bengal, Mamata Banerjee alleges ‘neglegence’

Centre yet to sanction part of ADB loan to Bengal, Mamata Banerjee alleges ‘neglegence’

This story was first published in The Indian Express on 19 September, 2016

West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra is likely to take up the issue of Centre’s “delayed clearance” to the second phase of a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), amounting to Rs 2,000 crore.

This, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, is “vital” to Bengal’s development and alleged continued “negligence” on the Centre’s part. The issue threatens to become the next flash point between the two governments.

The loan, said the state government, was approved by the board of ADB almost 11 months ago, after the completion of the first phase — in which West Bengal carried out a slew of “people-centric fundamental reforms.”

But while the Centre had approved the loan in the first phase, the proposal for the second installment is yet to be cleared 11 months after it was sent to the Finance Ministry’s department of Economic Affairs. In this time period, the state finance department had written a number of letters to the Centre.

“We have been waiting for the approval of the loan for months. The Government talks about pro-active governance, but in the case of West Bengal’s development, there is continued negligence,” Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

The second phase of the loan follows the “successful competition” of the first, in which the state government carried out reforms aimed at transparency and ease of governance.

West Bengal is the only state where payment is completely electronic. West Bengal was the first to use an RBI portal, e-Kuber. All this came out of the ADB’s first phase loan. Also, the State was given the highest award in e-taxation, integrated central finance and for use of information technology by the excise department under the e-abgari loan.