The Bengal Chamber held its Annual General Meeting 2015 on 10th of September at Kolkata. The AGM commenced with a Panel Discussion on Resurgence in Convergence - An Economic Outlook with eminent Speakers namely Shri Sunil Mitra, Chairman, The Bengal Chamber Economic Affairs Committee and Former Revenue & Finance Secretary, Government of India; Smt. Sindhushree Khullar, CEO, NITI Aayog and Dr. Shankar Acharya, Honorary Professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and Former Chief Economic Adviser and Member of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
The AGM of the Chamber was held at the most opportune time (after a year has passed since the General Elections and a year away from the State Elections) to assess the state of business in both the State and in the national economic arena, cognizant of the fact that if the Indian Economy does well, the West Bengal economy will also flourish. The conference theme - “Resurgence in Convergence - An Economic Outlook” was conceptualized in this very milieu where the outlook was to align the focus of both Governments in the realm of economic progress achieved.
The Annual General Meeting was chosen as a forum to address “Resurgence in Convergence”, since the AGM signifies the most important phase of transition within our year heralding in a new set of ideas and focus while strengthening and continuing our sustainable activities launched during the previous twelve months and earlier. Hence, it is most relevant for us to host the discussions on convergence in the economic context since this is a time of inflection.
The eminent speakers spoke on various macroeconomic issues. The public-private partnership (PPP) model in the infrastructure sector has not met with the projected interest from the private companies on account of the higher risks and lending rates. Due to lack of interest from the private sector to invest in building the nation’s infrastructure, an additional Rs.70,000 crore allocation had been made in this year’s budget. Apart from the stalled infra projects creating stress on the economy, banking assets also continue to remain an area of concern. The non-performance of the power sector and the gloom in the steel industry has impacted the nation’s banking industry. Ease of doing business is a primary area the Government is pinning its hopes on to attract investment across sectors but clearances not executed in a “time-bound and sequential” manner has been a major challenge. Supporting the vision of the government to develop the eastern zone economically, Smt. Khullar mentioned, “(West) Bengal is the gateway to Sikkim and the northeast and thus the manufacturing hub that is and around Bengal needs to be supported.”
The second phase of the AGM included a special plenary session with Dr. Amit Mitra, Hon’ble Minister-in-Charge, Commerce and Industries, IT & Electronics, Finance & Excise, Industrial Reconstruction and Public Enterprises, Government of West Bengal. An Awards Ceremony for ‘The Bengal Entrepreneurship Recognition 2015’ was also organized by The Bengal Chamber during the second phase of the AGM. At the Special Plenary Session, the Hon’ble Minister made a fervent pitch for investments in the State, including the six smart cities it was planning to set up. Speaking at the annual general meeting of The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Hon’ble Minister said the six “smart themed” cities included one on sports at Howrah (Kolkata’s twin city across the river Hooghly); a senior citizens’ city at Baruipur (29 km from Kolkata ); one health and education city in Siliguri (in North Bengal); an industrial city in Asansol (206 km from the State capital); for art and culture at Bolpur (155 km) and an analytics city at Kalyani (51 km). At least 25 per cent of the space in these areas (themed cities) will be reserved for the theme while commercial development can be carried out in the remaining parts. According to him, companies like HP (Hewlett Packard); Pratt & Whitney, EY and Cisco had shown interest in participating in development of these “themed cities” or in areas of e-learning, e-health, telemedicines, etc. He had also urged The Bengal Chamber to explore the possibility of collaboration with some of these companies. The Bengal Chamber, on its part, has taken up the development of the analytics city at Kalyani. Dr. Mitra also spoke about the investment scenario in the State and the progress of business.
The names of the new office bearers and members of the Managing Committee was announced in the Business Session, with the President being Mr. Ambarish Dasgupta; President Designate, Mr. Sutanu Ghosh; Senior Vice President, Mr. Aniruddha Basu and Vice President, Mr. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh. The first Managing Committee meeting was held immediately after the Business Session.
The AGM dinner commenced with a cultural programme and the participants were enthralled by the rendition of semi classical ragas and thumris by Vidushi Ruchira Panda.