Chinese Consul General Ma Zhanwu on Friday reiterated that Chinese companies are interested in investing in the state, but the atmosphere is still not conducive to meta-investment. Zhanwu was speaking here after the release of an investment potential report commissioned by the Chinese consulate from the Kolkata branch of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), titled “Sustainable Investment Possibilities”.
“The government needs to be more friendly to expect investment here. The government has some fantastic policies on paper to attract investment — however, in reality, these policies do not work. I’ve heard about this Thai company which has wrapped up its operations and left. One of their issues was that expensive equipment they imported would get stolen,” he said.
The Consul General further said: “Many times, that company would be asked to give employment to the ruling party’s cadres. And these cadres were not trained, they were unskilled labour.”
ORF Kolkata Director Ashok Dhar, meanwhile, said it was important to look at developing states not just individually, but as a cluster.
“The GDP of Delhi NCR, for instance, is likely to go up to one trillion dollars by next year. Other clusters such as Mumbai-Pune and Bangalore-Hyderabad are doing well. We also need to look at cluster development in the East — such as Bihar, Bengal, Bangladesh,” he said.
According to Dhar, the objective of the study was to look at potential investment avenues in five eastern Indian states — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal. The report said three of the five states — Chhattisgarh, Kharkhand and Odisha — have emerged as “aspiring leaders”, and show the most potential for development. West Bengal requires acceleration, while Bihar needs a “jump start”.
The maximum wage is offered in Bihar at $5.7 a day, the report observed, adding the least wages were given in Odisha ($3.41 daily). Cost of land is highest in West Bengal, followed by Jharkhand, while Bihar is the least expensive. Renting space is highest in West Bengal and lowest in Odisha.
All five states have the advantage of being well-connected to the rest of the country, and have introduced single-window systems for ease of doing business. All five have high tourism potential, the report says, but adds this sector is grossly underdeveloped. Cheap labour in these states as compared to the rest of the country is a major investment attraction, says the report.
While listing many of Bengal’s reforms such as the single-window system facilitating business, rail, air and port connectivity and industrial reforms brought in by TMC administration, the report goes on to say: “West Bengal, despite the gamut of reforms is seriously lacking behind the major industrially developed states in India and only has a meagre 46.9 per cent overall share of project implementation and hence the reality is that, the number of project proposals made at business summits supersedes the number of projects initiated and implemented.
“Also the government has been widely accused of being unable to stop rent seeking activities and prevalence of political syndicates believed to be in cahoots with the land mafia. Thus, the current government needs to implement policies apolitically and uphold the rule of law in the state, thereby providing a sense of stability and security to the entrepreneurs.’’