During the pandemic, while Bengal’s GDP grew, the country’s GDP fell: Mamata Banerjee at the inauguration of BGBS

Today, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the sixth edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS). It is being attended by several business tycoons and foreign delegates.

In her speech, the chief minister stated that during the pandemic, while Bengal’s GDP grew, that of India took a dip. “While Bengal’s GDP was in plus, the GDP of the country’s was in minus.”

She said her government has brought down person-days lost due to strikes and disruptions to zero, from 75 lakh per year during the erstwhile Left Front rule.

She also stressed on creating job opportunities through a twin thrust on industry and agriculture. “My thrust area is industry and agriculture, and job opportunities in Bengal should go up,” she said.

Harping further on the Bengal government’s intent to bring further prosperity for the people of the state, Mamata Banerjee said, “Bengal is the first state to organise a physical business summit since the Covid pandemic struck.” The annual summit could not be held in 2020 and 2021 due to the spike in COVID-19 infections.

Bangla no. 1 in growth rate

In a Facebook post written today, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee put up the news that according to a report by the Central Government, Bangla has achieved the highest growth rate in the country – 12.58 per cent, in financial year (FY) 2018-19.

Sharp contrast to the national scene

Congratulating everyone concerned, she also noted that this was in sharp contrast to the deep recession and policy paralysis that has engulfed the country, courtesy the policies of the Union Government.

As a result, there has been a significant decline in the overall growth rate in the country as well as the highest rate of unemployment in 45 years.

In recent months, the automobile and leather sectors saw job losses to the tune of 3 lakh.

Disinvestment dampener

On top of so much unemployment, the Centre is actively pursuing the disinvestment of 45 public sector companies. This will lead to further loss of jobs for lakhs of people.

Investments going down

And on the other hand, she wrote, investment in new projects has plunged to a 15-year low in the quarter ending June 2019.

Implementation of new projects worth Rs 13 trillion has stalled, according to the well-respected business and economic data research company, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). This is the highest value since it began compiling data in 1995.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has shown a negative growth rate of 1.09 per cent in FY 2018-19, as compared to 2017-18.

Figures prove the desperate state of economy

Figures put up in her post point to the desperate state of the Indian economy:

GDP growth: 5.8% in Q4 of 2018-19, lowest in last five years (from FY 2014-15)

Industrial Output growth: 2% in June 2019, against 7% in June 2018

Growth: 3.6% in Q1 of 2019-20, compared to 5.1% in Q1 of 2018-19

Index of Industrial Production: 1.2% in June 2019, compared to 6.9% in June 2018

Capital Goods Sector growth: -6.5% in June 2019, compared to 9.7% in June 2018

Mining Sector growth: 1.6% in June 2019 , compared to 6.5% in June 2018

Unemployment rate: 6.1% in FY 2018-19, the highest in the last 45 years

Number of new projects announced: In Q1 of FY 2019-20, 87% lower compared to Q1 of FY 2018-19 and 81% lower in compared to Q4 of the same FY

Politics trumps development

Mamata Banerjee ended her post saying, for the new government at the Centre, it is all about “politics, politics and only politics” now, rather than economy and development.

She exhorted the people of the country to realise the true situation India has been dragged into by this government.


Dr Santanu Sen asks a Question on increased spending from GDP on health services


Chairman Sir, first of all, as yesterday was Doctors’ Day I would like to wish happy belated Doctors’ Day to our Hon’ble Health Minister, who is also a doctor. 

Sir, it is very unfortunate to remind you all, though India is the sixth largest economy of the world and we have seen the budgetary allocation for health in our country was hardly 1.5 per cent or even less. We have also noticed that our Hon’ble Minister hardly found 1.5 minutes to spend on budgetary allocation speech. 

Sir, my question is… in our State of West Bengal we have seen that our present Chief Minister Madam Mamata Banerjee has increased the budgetary allocation for health from Rs 682 crore to nearly 1400 times in the last seven years. So, can we see our State as a role model for the rest of the country?


Saugata Roy speaks on Supplementary Demand for Grants (General Budget)


Thank you Sir. This is the third batch of supplementary demands; there are altogether 75 demands and three grants in this. Total Supplementary Demand is roughly Rs 11.34 lakh crore. Out of this Rs 14,000 crore are the actual outgoes of the government. The rest is known as the Actual Supplementary Demands. There is also something known as Technical Supplementary Demands for Grants – that is Rs 11.20 lakh crore – where the change in allocations is made by savings or extra income in the department itself. And thirdly there is a token Supplementary Demands for Grants where Rs 1 lakh is allotted to every department. This year the total Budget is Rs 21 lakh crore. So if Rs 14,000 crore is extra outgo in the former Supplementary Demands, one cannot really quarrel with that. So, we do not oppose the Supplementary Demands for Grants.

Having said that let me make a few points about the economics. I do not think that the victory (of ruling party in recent polls) proves that demonetisation is a very good step. May be the PM is a good salesman; he has sold demonetisation as a thing between rich and the poor. But demonetisation has hobbled our economy permanently.

And if actual figures are placed then you will see that the rate of GDP growth has suffered. India has a peculiar matter in which statistics of GDP growth as given by the government does not seem to be genuine. Till today (of course March is not complete) we do not have the figures of GDP growth for the year 2016-17. Many economists are of the impression that growth rate of GDP should fall to at least 6.5% if not lower. So economy is not as hunky dory as it seems.

Small industries and units have been crushed and millions of artisans and workers have suffered. In Bengal, 81 lakh people have been hit by demonetisation. Who they vote for is not important but the fact is that the economy has suffered. After the Rabi crop comes out we shall know how much we have suffered due to demonetisation.

In Bengal Budget, our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has allocated special funds for people who are affected by demonetisation. She has also allocated Rs 100 crore for the farmers hit by demonetisation. Unfortunately, in the Supplementary Demands, there is no scope for compensating any of the people – farmers or, artisans – who have been affected by demonetisation.

Today that farmers’ suicide continues to be a big problem in the country and this number will be more in future. As you know Sir, several States are reeling under drought. Where has the Government granted any extra money for those who are hit by drought? The Government has said that they will double the income of farmers in five years. The rate at which the farmers are committing suicide, I do not think the situation will improve. If you notice, Sir, that in five years, agriculture’s contribution to GDP has fallen whereas a large number of people – almost 75% people – are dependent on agriculture. Agriculture’s contribution to GDP has fallen to 25%. It may fall even more. This agrarian distress has not been covered by the Government.

Sir, the Budget, on which I spoke earlier, has been a series of gimmicks and slogans. You moved the Budget date to February 1, you incorporated the Rail Budget into the General Budget. How does it help the Economy? These are all just technical showpieces. Where has the economy got the muscles? I want to cite some figures about the situation.

The rate of growth, if we say Gross Value Added, in manufacturing for 2015-16, was 9.3%. In 2016-17 it came down to 7.4%.

In construction it was 3.9% (2015-16) and it has fallen to 2.9% (2016-17) in trade, hotel, transport and construction.

Growth rate in service related to broadcasting was 9% (2015-16); it has fallen to 6% (2016-17).

In financial, insurance, real estate and professional services, it was 10.3% (2015-16); it has fallen to 9% (2016-17).

So, in Hamlet, as it was said, “All is not well in the State of Denmark”, I am saying something is rotten in the state of the economy. Not enough is being done to correct that. Throughout the world, when economists see statistics coming from China, they say it is not believable. The way this government is giving statistics, soon we will have a reputation like China – that our statistics are not reliable. This is a problem.

Sir, I understood that they could have taken as much money as they wanted if they only implemented Universal Basic Income, which was an idea proposed in the Economic Survey. They have not given Universal Basic Income. They have given a token increase to MGNREGA. But the condition of the rural masses in India still remain very bad.

I have already mentioned how the rate of growth has fallen. May I mention, where is the investment? They are giving slogans like ‘Make In India’, ‘Stand Up India, Startup India’, ‘Swachh Bharat’ etc. But where is the actual investment in the industry? I want the actual figures (that are never available from the government) of the actual investments in 2016-17. The fact is that industrial investment is not rising; we have only slogans.

Sir, I want to make a point on black money; it is not being recovered. Till today, we do not know how much black money was recovered post demonetisation. We do not even know how much money was deposited in the banks between November 8 and December 31, 2016. We are in the dark. Sir, we do not know how much black money has been recovered from abroad. We do not know if people will get Rs 15 lakh in their bank accounts. This is a black spot in the Indian economy.

Since this is the Supplementary Demand for Grants, there is no mention about the banking sector. The banking sector in India is rotting. Rs 8 lakh crore worth of Non-Performing Assets is there. Was demonetisation done to fill up the coffers of the banks so that they have money to give to big industrialists?

Sir, as I said earlier, nobody opposes Supplementary Demand for Grants. These are money already already spent. So, I support the Supplementary Demand for Grants. But I once again sound a word of caution to the government that all in not well in the economy of India.

Thank you.



Tapas Mandal speaks on Demands for Grants for the Agriculture Ministry


Madam Speaker thank you for allowing me to raise the points on Demands for Grants 2017-18 for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Agriculture continues to be backbone of the economy. It employs 56% of the workforce.

The total share of agriculture and allied sectors in terms of GDP is 13.9%.

Over 58% of the rural households depend on the agriculture as their principal means of livelihood.

India’s GDP is expected to grow at 7.1% in the financial year of the 2016-17 while agriculture GDP is expected to grow at 4.1%.

India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spice products.

India’s fruit production has grown faster than vegetables making in the second largest fruit producer in the world.

The agro-industry in India is divided into several sub segments such as canned, dairy and frozen fruits to fisheries, meat, poultry and grains.

But there are some other points:

  • 70% of the farmers never heard about the direct cash transfer.
  • Only 27% have heard about land acquisition law.
  • 83% of the farmers are clueless about the foreign direct investment.
  • 70% of the farmers never contacted any Kisan Call Centres.


Demonetisation affected the farmers adversely. What steps taken by the government given importance to the agriculture sector? What are the benefits and what is the road map of the agriculture sector? The economy contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is steadily declining with the country’s broad based economic growth. Still agriculture is demographically the broadest economic sector and plays a significant role in the human and socio-economic fabric of India. Slow agricultural growth is a concern for policy makers as some two third of India’s population depend on rural employment for a living.

Current agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable and India’s yields for many agricultural commodities are low. Poorly maintained irrigation systems and almost universal lack of good extensional services are among the factors responsible. Farmers’ access to markets is hampered by poor roads, rudimentary marketing infrastructure and excessive regulation.

It will be essential for India to build up productive, competitive and diversified agricultural sector and facilitate rural non-farming entrepreneurship and employment. Encouraging policies that promote competitions in agricultural marketing will ensure farmers receive better prices. Although India has attained self sufficiency in food staples the productivity of its farm is below that of Brazil, United States, France and many other even developing countries.

Indian wheat farms, for example, produce about 1/3 of the width per hectare per year compared to farms in France. Rice productivity in India was less than that of China. Other staple crops’ productivity in India is similarly low. Indian Total Factor Productivity growth remains below 2% p.a.; in contrast, China’s Total Factor Productivity growth is above 6% p.a, even though China also has small holding farmers. Several studies suggest that India could eradicate its hunger and malnutrition to become a major source of food for the world by achieving productivity comparable to other countries.

Regarding farmers suicide, in 2012 the National Crimes Record Bureau of India reported 13,754 farmers committed suicide. Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Activists and scholars have offered a number of conflicting reasons for farmer suicides such as monsoon failure, high debt burdens, genetically modified crops, government policies, public mental health, personal issues and family problems. But we are going through a heavy agrarian crisis of Indian agriculture.

Indian agriculture is undergoing a structural change leading to a crisis situation. The rate of growth of agriculture output is gradually declining in the recent years. The contribution of agriculture to GDP comes down to less than half within the third years span. The deceleration of agriculture started from the early 1990s and it became sharp from the late 1990s.

The trend in the areas input use and capital stock and technology also reflect the agricultural downfall. All these trends show that the agricultural sector in India is facing a crisis today. It is alarming that the average monthly income of farmer houses is quite less considering minimum living standards. The suicide in farming and the agricultural sector in India is a matter of concern.

About 40 % of the farming community is on the verge of leaving agriculture as their profession due to huge loss in farming practices. The young generation is not interested in farming any more; it is said that the root cause of the crisis is that agriculture is no more a profitable economic activity when compared to the other enterprises. It means the economic activities derived from these activities not sufficient enough to meet the expenditures of the cultivators and therefore unless agriculture is made a profitable enterprise the present crisis cannot be solved.

The related factors responsible for the crisis include dependence on rainfall and climate, liberal import of agricultural products, reduction in agricultural subsidies, lack of ease credit to agricultural dependence on money lenders, decline of government investment in agricultural sectors and conversion of agricultural land into alternative uses.

The government invokes the name of Ambedkar all the time but does nothing for the people of Ambedkar; please allocate proportionate part to agriculture following SC/ST sub plan not through SC/ST welfare schemes.

The government talks of giving emphasis on looking towards Eastern India but what has the government given Eastern India, specially West Bengal, which is the gateway of Eastern India?

We have a legitimate demand for setting up of a Central Agricultural University in West Bengal. West Bengal is playing a leading role in the country in agriculture and horticulture sector. In spite of that, West Bengal is deprived from getting Central Agricultural University. Central Horticulture University is also a demand from the Government. In Horticulture, West Bengal Government is much ahead of other states. As compared to other major states, West Bengal has very few ICR Research Institutes. We need more institutes, sub-centres, like, CRIDA, IIHR, IIVR, RRI etc. in the state of West Bengal. I hope that the Minister will consider these aspects in his next Budget.

This government talks of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikash, but is depriving West Bengal. We need more funds to be allocated for the development of agriculture in the state of West Bengal.

There is a saying in Bengali: “Ghoray Choriya Moddo Hantiya Cholilo” meaning a very dangerous man is riding on the horse gently. The actions of this government, which has a huge mandate, reminds us of that saying.

In the end, I would like to add that West Bengal is an example for the rest of the country to follow regarding implementing crop insurance scheme. Thank You.




Dola Sen speaks on The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017


Honourable Chairman Sir, Thank you for letting me speak on this important Bill.

Sir, India has a 472 million labour market. Out of this, 90% of the workforce is in the informal and unorganised sector. It contributes 45% of the GDP. However, workers are deprived of the benefits of formal employment like provident fund and health insurance (like ESI), bonus, dearness allowance etc. Many workers complain that employers pay them less than the minimum wages mandated by States anc Centre. This is today’s reality. I am sorry to say, the Central Labour Directorate has not been able to exert the law of the land.

Sir, it is important to protect the interests of the workers and labourers. I am glad that a reformed labour code will ensure that wages reach the workers in a timely manner.

However, this Bill states that all wages must be transferred to the bank account of the employer, unless the Government specifically notifies a certain amount, which may be paid in cash. This may pose a difficulty for many who still do not have bank accounts.

This Government constantly talks about cashless India, Digital India. However, does the Government know how many people have bank accounts? The harsh reality is that 80% of women don’t have bank accounts in India. More than 50% of workers do not have bank accounts till date.

To add to the misery of the workers, the restrictions on cash withdrawal have still not been removed by the government. How will the poor worker stand in the ATM queues during his work hours to withdraw money? How will he pay service to banks? Sir, Political parties can receive Rs 2,000 cash donation but the poor worker cannot.

For example, I want to add, if an entrepreneur has to pay Rs 2 crore as wages or salaries of workmen per week, say on Saturday. He is also entitled to withdraw only Rs 24,000 from his bank account per week. Obviously there are no needs for lockout. Factories after factories are being closed due to lockouts affecting the workers.

Sir, in Bengal, there are over 4 lakh people working in the tea gardens. There are over 5 lakh people working in the jute mills. Over 1.5 crore people are associated with tea industry, over 2.5 crore people are associated with jute industry. These workers and labourers could not be paid their wages due to demonetisation.

Sir, demonetisation has caused hardship to all workers and labourers. After 3 months of pain and agony, over 25 crore daily wageworkers have lost their jobs. Unemployment has increased to 7%.

There is a need to provide a comprehensive social security system for workers in the informal sector. The Government cannot make the poor worker suffer because of its own agenda to go cashless and Digital.



India could lose as much as Rs 4.7 lakh crore in its GDP: Amit Mitra

Criticing the governments move to demonetise old Rs 500/1,000 notes, Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Thursday said India could lose as much as Rs 4.7 lakh crore in its GDP.

The old high denomination notes were demonetised from November 9. Since then long queues are being witnessed at bank branches and outside ATMs for cash withdrawal.

“Just imagine for Rs 400 crore of supposedly fake money, according to the government itself, you kill or demonetise over Rs 14.5 lakh crore or may be Rs 15 lakh crore.

“I mean what kind of policy is this. Another serious question, we recently saw some new fake money, I am told according to reports. What does this mean. This is horrendous,” the West Bengal minister said.

Calling demonetisation “the biggest scam that is about to happen”, Dr Mitra said it will provide no gain, but only acute pain.

“If these figures (deposits of old notes in banks) are right because what it seems to me is if all the money comes back there was not enough black money… This has two serious implications. One, it could be that the government was purely ignorant because it does not consult anybody…or they have in effect facilitated some people from converting black into white, effectively ending up with no RBI surpluses,” he said.

Dr Mitra also slammed the Centre for trying to enforce cashless economy without preparing grounds for it. “Doesn’t the PM know 86% people have no means to go to cashless economy? 92% villages are unbanked as per RBI figures. There are 21000 unorganised mandis in the country, 383 lakh unorganised units in MSME, which obviously use cash. A major part of any big economy is in cash. To move them into cashless economy is a major task. This cannot be done by destabilising the economy,” he said.

The Bengal Finance Minister, who is also the Chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on GST, said, “The whole tax architecture will have to change, which is a huge challenge in the form of destabilisation. Can we not move GST a little bit on so that when the economy stabilises (and) people come back to normal living conditions, you bring in another disruption?”


নোট বাতিলের ফলে ৪.৭ লক্ষ কোটি টাকা ক্ষতি হতে পারে দেশের জিডিপির: অমিত মিত্র

কেন্দ্রীয় সরকারের হঠকারী নোটবাতিলের সিদ্ধান্তের সমালোচনা করে বাংলার অর্থমন্ত্রী আমিত মিত্র বৃহস্পতিবার বলেন, এই তুঘলকি সিদ্ধান্তের ফলে দেশের জিডিপির ক্ষতি হবে চার লক্ষ ৭০ হাজার কোটি টাকা।

৮ই নভেম্বর ৫০০ ও ১০০০ টাকার নোট বাতিল করার পর থেকে আজ অবধি প্রতি এটিএম ও বাঙ্কের বাইরে সুদীর্ঘ লাইন দেখা যাচ্ছে টাকা তোলার জন্য।

“ভেবে দেখুন, কেন্দ্রীয় সরকার আনুমানিক ৪০০ কোটি টাকা নকল নোটের জন্য সাড়ে ১৪ বা ১৫ লক্ষ কোটি টাকা বাতিল করল। এটা কি ধরনের সিদ্ধান্ত?” তিনি আরও বলেন যে পরিস্থিতি খুবই ভয়াবহ।

অমিত মিত্র বলেন নোট বাতিল দেশের সব থেকে বড় কেলেঙ্কারি যার ফলে জনসাধারনের অপরিসীম কষ্ট ছাড়া আর কিছুই লাভ হল না।

“যে সংখ্যক পুরোনো নোট বাঙ্কে ফিরে এসেছে, সেই সংখ্যাটি যদি যথাযথ হয়, তার থেকে দুটি ব্যাপার বোঝা যায়। প্রথম, কেন্দ্রীয় সরকারের কাছে এই ব্যাপারে কোনও তথ্যই ছিল না, কারন, তারা কাওর সঙ্গে কোনও আলোচনাই করেননি। অথবা, তারা কিছু মানুষকে কালো টাকা সাদা করার সুযোগ করে দিল যে কারনে রিজার্ভ বাঙ্কের কাছে কোনও অধিক টাকা জমা পড়ে নি।”

আমিত মিত্র ক্যাশলেস ইকোনমির ব্যাপারেও কড়া সমালোচনা করে বলেন, কোনও প্রস্তুতি না নিয়েই সরকার ক্যাশলেস ইকোনমির ওপর জোর দিচ্ছেন। “প্রধানমন্ত্রী কি জানেন না যে ৮৬ শতাংশ মানুষের কাছে ক্যাশলেস ইকোনমির সামর্থ নেই। রিজার্ভ বাঙ্কের নথি অনুযায়ী ৯২ শতাংশ গ্রামে বাঙ্ক নেই। দেশে ২১০০০ অসংগঠিত মান্ডি আছে। ৩৮৩ লক্ষ অসংগঠিত ক্ষুদ্র ও মাঝারি শিল্প প্রতিষ্ঠান আছে যারা পুরোপুরি ভাবে নগদ টাকায় লেনদেন করেন। এই দেশের সিংহভাগ ব্যাবসাই চলে নোটের ওপর। এই সমস্তকে ক্যাশলেস ইকোনমির দিকে নিয়ে যাওয়া একটি বিশাল কাজ, দেশের অর্থনীতির মেরুদণ্ড ভেঙে সেদিকে এগোনো যায়না,” আমিত মিত্র বলেন।

বাংলার অর্থমন্ত্রী, যিনি অর্থমন্ত্রীদের জিএসটি বিষয়ক এম্পাওয়ার্ড কমিটির চেয়ারম্যানও বটে, আরও বলেন, “জিএসটি লাগু করতে গেলে দেশের কর পরিকাঠামো নতুন করে সাজাতে হবে। নোট বাতিলের জন্য দেশের অর্থনীতি ইতিমধ্যেই সংকটে। তাই, আমরা কি কিছুদিন পরে জিএসটি লাগু করতে পারি না যখন দেশের অর্থনীতি স্বাভাবিক অবস্থায় ফিরে আসবে?”

Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra slams note ban

“Only an authoritarian government can calmly cause such misery to people,” said Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on the government’s demonetisation move. Concurring with this thought Amit Mitra, Finance Minister of Bengal said no democracy with a money market has withdrawn 86 percent money from the market.

Dr Mitra said FMCG sales have fallen by 35-40 percent. About 70 percent of secondary steel plants in Bengal are not working after demonetisation. India is seeing recessionary tendency due to this move, he added. It will take six months for the government to remonetise the economy, Dr Mitra said. Economists have also agreed that gross domestic product (GDP) will decline by 100-300 bps due to demonetisation.

Joining the crusade against the currency ban, Dr Mitra said the government was not prepared to implement this scheme. Due to the cash clean-up, informal sector in all states is in deep trouble, he said. On deposits made in Jan Dhan account, he said for political purposes government had leaked that West Bengal ranked number one when on the contrary, the state is ranked number 10.

Talking about the Income Tax Amendments Bill announced by the government on Monday, the economist said the government has admitted its failure by introducing an amnesty scheme for the black marketeers.

Dr Mitra, who is also the Chairman of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Panel, said the indirect tax regime is the biggest fiscal reform in the country and it not a tax rate issue. Since the roll-out of the demonetisation scheme, there are serious concerns over GST rules. The scheme is a second whammy for the states, much bigger than GST process, Dr Mitra said.

Bengal did not backtrack on GST: Amit Mitra

Q: Your state has been one of the biggest proponents of goods and services tax (GST). What happened, what went wrong, why did the state backtrack on the GST bill?

Dr Mitra: I don’t think that the state backtracked at all. There was a special session called for a very difficult and important subject—changing the name of the state—and that involved 3-4 hours of discussion. There was also a dengue issue which the opposition wanted to raise and Mamata Banerjee was gracious in having discussed at the democratic level that required several hours. We had a third topic which related to centre-state relations vis-àvis flow of funds.

Now if you have to do a GST in the middle of that one-day session it will require at least 2-3 hours of discussion, according to demands made by both sides of the floor. West Bengal led by Mamata Banerjee has been the biggest supporter of GST. It was we who helped the most not only in the Lok Sabha, but in the Rajya Sabha as well.

In 2009 in our manifesto we had GST. I believe you only need 50% states to ratify and it has been ratified and after the assembly session where we could not accommodate because of the local serious pressures of name change of the state, I have chaired an empowered committee meeting as finance minister of West Bengal where we called all the industry associations, company secretaries, chartered accountants and small and medium enterprises. So this is a work in progress.

Q: By when do you think would this be passed by your assembly?

Dr Mitra: Well, it is a matter of the next assembly meeting, whenever it comes, we will bring it up, but at this time there is practically no need to go through this process as a binding issue, because the President has already given assent. We are the most important supporters of the GST for the people of India.

Q: Which is why it came as a surprise to many and they said that possibly there are some issues that you want to sort out before you pass the bill.

Dr Mitra: Issues are parallel issues, issues which relate to federalism in India …. nothing to do with GST. For example, over Rs6,000 crore has not been received by the state including 100 days work compensation, so it is an ongoing process.

We have taken 26% equity in a deep sea port. We are also building our own state ports, there is a conversation going on.

In centre-state relations, we stand for federalism, this is an ongoing process. It is a different track altogether. As far as we are concerned, the government-to-government relawhat tionship goes on with its processes.

GST is for national interest and therefore Mamata Banerjee stood in support of it. That will continue and I continue to chair the empowered committee of finance ministers on behalf of my state. What is happening as far as the empowered panel meetings are concerned in terms of the discussion or rather the differences as far as a rate is concerned? Some states say it should be raised up to as much as to 24%, some say it should be around

Q: 18%. How are those discussions going; where do you think it will settle?

Dr Mitra: I think the key point is there are multiple rates given by researchers, so the chief economic advisor to the government of India suggested 15-15.5% in the average rate, then you had at one time National Institute of Public Finance and Policy suggesting 27% and there is the Vijay Kelkar committee report, which came as the first report on GST, suggesting 12%. This is a matter of revenue neutrality so that state revenue is preserved. Different states may have different views but has happened is the empowered committee has fully given support unanimously to the fact that we have two principles.

Principle one: GST rate should not be such that common people get inflationary pressure. What’s the point of GST, which at the end of the day is for the people?

Principle two: it should not be so low that states do not get revenue, centre has to compensate for 5 years and they don’t have the money to compensate. Despite constitutional process they may get into a problem, so it should be an optimal rate, not a maximal rate.

Q: Where is that optimal rate coming up to?

Dr Mitra: This is exactly what the GST council will debate in the coming weeks. I am sure it will be a full debate.

Q: Do you think between 20-22% is where it should land in terms of a cap?

Dr Mitra: It would be very difficult for me to hazard a number as a guess. It would be pre-empting the views of other state finance ministers.

Q: If I talk to you as the finance minister of Bengal, what would your view be?

Dr Mitra: I would not present the view here. I would present it at the GST council. The reason is, we have to discuss it, we have to listen to each other, only then after listening to arguments of each other along with the Union finance minister who is the chair of the GST council, will we arrive at a decision. It is too pre-emptive today for me to just give you a rate. It would be unfair and wrong.

I am not asking you to give me a rate and say that this is the rate that we will finalize because obviously it is a discussion, there are so many states and Union territories that would be discussing it. But from the perspective of a finance minister of a state, if you look at your revenue, if you look at the taxation system and stuff, where do you think the cap could come up to?

I don’t think I can hazard a number for you because as chairman of the empowered committee I cannot say, I just cannot give you a number. Let it come up in the GST council which is happening very soon, let it be discussed.

It is a national issue, this is a very serious issue. I have given you the principle which the empowered committee has defined unanimously—not so high that the industry passes that on to the consumer and there is inflationary pressure. In fact, during the discussion of the empowered committee with the chambers of commerce, one of the questions raised by finance ministers was, when taxes are raised industry tends to pass on those taxes to the consumers and why should they bear it?

Q: When taxes get lowered, will the industry pass this on to the consumers?

Dr Mitra: So, I would say that we have defined the principles at the empowered committee of all finance ministers across political parties and across states.

Q: For the panel there are two months to discuss and come up with a consensus as far as all the issues are concerned. Do you think that is a fair enough time?

Dr Mitra: It depends on the intensity with which this is conducted. If you are going to do it on a war footing every day, every week where everybody becomes available, attempt will be to see how this can come up within a certain space of time. Also it will depend on the number of industrial issues that come up. For example, today an industry has 5% value added tax (VAT) and now it is going to face X percent revenue neutral rate (RNR), that industry may be employing 20 million people, that industry will come up and say to you please don’t change my 5% to a much higher number.

So, that has to be discussed in the GST council. There may be categorization of areas, where there are sin goods, there are luxury goods, there are non-luxury goods, all this has to be defined to the satisfaction of the entire GST council.

So, all this will come on the table and already the empowered committee has received many representations. It will go into 6,000-7,000 pages of representations from the industry because we invited that as there should be dialogue. All this has to be collated, structured, made into some kind of a framework and then on principles this will be discussed at the GST council.


Edited Excerpts from an interview published in Livemint


Mamata Banerjee balancing industry and people’s rights: Amit Mitra

On the historic day when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee handed ‘parchas’ to 9,117 farmers at Singur, state industry and commerce minister Dr Amit Mitra brought out her ‘balance statesmanship’ in which she invited the Tata Group to invest more in the state.

“Chief Minister wants larger margin of investment from the Tata Group. She even had taken two business heads from the Tatas along with her to Munich – a tour to find fresh German investment,” said Dr Mitra at Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry meet on Wednesday.

Presenting the growth statistics, Mitra said that the traders’ fraternities of Germany are impressed with the figures. They will come to discuss investment in next Bengal Global Business Summit in January 20-21, 2017.

“We have given jobs to 68 lakh people and the process is still going on,” Mitra said at the BCCI gathering adding the state had largest bank funding in the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME). The MSME contributes 95 per cent of Garman economy. “So, MSME can take a major role in the economy,” Mitra said.

Giving the statistics, Mitra said the present Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of the state is Rs 9.5 lakh crore, which was Rs 4.60 lakh crore during the Mamata Banerjee government, had taken the office.

The figure is more than double. The fiscal deficit has reduced from 4.24 per cent to 2.68 per cent, which is an achievement. The revenue deficit of the state has reduced from 3.75 per cent to 1.03 per cent and moving towards zero. The income from state owned taxes have doubled. It was once Rs 21,129 crore, but now figuring at 42,920 crore.

The planned expenditure has increased 3 times; it was around Rs 14,650 crore, but now standing at Rs 54,069 crore. The social expenditure of the state has also grown up 4.5 times from the previous figure.

It has increased 7 times in agriculture, 4 times in physical infrastructure. The capital expenditure have increase from Rs 2,226 crore to Rs 15,947 crore.

“The construction of 10,663 km roads is underway, including 10,000 km rural roads. We have 99 per cent electrification in our states except Sundarbans where two Mouzas are still to be electrified, 6,000 new schools have made, 46 new government colleges have set up, 15 new universities including 8 private universities have come up here,” the industry and commerce minister added.


কৃষকদের অধিকার রক্ষা ও শিল্পোন্নয়নের ভারসাম্যের নীতিতেই মুখ্যমন্ত্রীর সাফল্য

কৃষকদের স্বার্থ রক্ষা ও শিল্পোন্নয়ন এই দুইয়ের ভারসাম্য বজায় রেখেই শিল্পকে এগিয়ে নিয়ে যেতে চান মাননীয়া মুখ্যমন্ত্রী মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়। দেশ বিদেশের বিভিন্ন শিল্প সংস্থাকে রাজ্যে বিনিয়োগের জন্য আহ্বান জানান মুখ্যমন্ত্রী। কৃষি ও শিল্প দুইয়ের ভারসাম্য বজায় রেখে মুখ্যমন্ত্রী যেভাবে বাংলাকে উন্নয়নের দিশা দেখানোর কাজে এগিয়ে চলেছেন তা এক অর্থে প্রশংসনীয়।

বুধবার বেঙ্গল চেম্বার অফ কমার্সের এজিএম অনুষ্ঠানে এসে শিল্প মন্ত্রী অমিত মিত্র বলেন, “মুখ্যমন্ত্রী চান টাটা গ্রুপ বাংলায় আরও বেশি বিনিয়োগ করুক। মুখ্যমন্ত্রী মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়ের ডাকে সারা দিয়ে টাটার প্রতিনিধি দল জার্মানির মিউনিখে গিয়েছিলেন”।

বৃদ্ধি পরিসংখ্যান উপস্থাপনা করে ডঃ মিত্র বলেন, জার্মানির ব্যবসায়ীরা আমাদের পরিসংখ্যানে খুশি। আগামী বছর ২০১৭ সালের জানুয়ারি মাসে আয়োজিত বেঙ্গল গ্লোবাল বিজনেস সামিটে তারা আসবেন এবং এবিষয়ে আলোচনা করবেন।

“আমরা ৬৮ লক্ষ লোকের কর্মসংস্থান করেছি, প্রক্রিয়া এখনও চলছে। জার্মান অর্থনীতিতে ক্ষুদ্র ও মাঝারি শিল্পের অবদান ৯৫ শতাংশ। সুতরাং, MSME অর্থনীতিতে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ ভূমিকা নিতে পারে,” বলেন অর্থমন্ত্রী।

GSDP পরিসংখ্যান দিয়ে অর্থমন্ত্রী বলেন, বর্তমানে রাজ্যের GDP গ্রোথ ৯.৫ লক্ষ কোটি, ২০১১ সালে যা ছিল ৪.৬০ লক্ষ কোটি। অর্থাৎ দ্বিগুনের চেয়েও বেশি। রাজ্যের আর্থিক ঘাটতি ৪.২৪ শতাংশ থেকে কমে হয়েছে ২.৬৮ শতাংশ যা নিঃসন্দেহে একটি সাফল্য। রাজস্ব ঘাটতি শতকরা ৩.৭৫ থেকে কমে ১.০৩ হয়েছে, ক্রমশ তা শুন্যের দিকে এগোচ্ছে। রাজ্যের আয় বেড়ে দ্বিগুন হয়েছে। আগে ছিল ২১.১২৯ কোটি টাকা এবং এখন তা হয়েছে ৪২.৯২০ কোটি টাকা।

পরিকল্পিত ব্যয় ৩ গুণ বেড়ে গেছে; আগে ছিল ১৮.৬৫০ কোটি টাকা, কিন্তু এখন হয়েছে ৫৪.০৬৯ কোটি টাকা। রাজ্যের সামাজিক খাতে আয় প্রায় ৪ গুন বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে। কৃষিখাতে বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে ৭ গুন। মূলধনি ব্যয় ২,২২৬ কোটি টাকা থেকে বেড়ে হয়েছে ১৫.৯৪৭ কোটি টাকা।

শিল্পমন্ত্রী আরও জানান, “ ১০,৬৬৩ কিলোমিটার সড়ক নির্মাণের কাজ চলছে এর মধ্যে ১০,০০০ কিলোমিটার গ্রামীণ সড়ক। সুন্দরবন ছাড়া আমাদের রাজ্যে প্রায় সব জায়গায় ৯৯ শতাংশ বিদ্যুতায়ন হয়ে গেছে। ৬০০০ নতুন বিদ্যালয়, ৪৬ টি সরকারি কলেজ তৈরি হয়েছে। ১৫ টি নতুন বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় তৈরি হচ্ছে, এর মধ্যে ৮ টি বেসরকারি”।