Jaitley seeks east’s enhanced part in growth, pledges support to Bengal (Roundup)

Kolkata, Jan 8 (IANS) Highlighting India’s growth rate despite the global meltdown, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday called for an additional 1-1.5 percent growth to give the Indian economy a cutting edge and exuded confidence this enhancement could come from the eastern states.

Addressing the inaugural session of Bengal Global Business Summit here, he affirmed the central government’s commitment towards contributing to West Bengal’s growth and said governments across the political spectrum in India have realised the need for formulating investment-friendly policies.

Jaitley referred to the World Bank’s observation that India was the fastest growing among the large economies, and said the current growth rate of 7-7.5 percent can be enhanced by another 1-1.5 percent.

“If in an adversity India has the potential to grow at 7 and 7.5 percent, is it impossible for India to add another one and one and a half percent which gives us the cutting edge, adds to our jobs, which enables us in poverty alleviation, which gives us more resources to service the poor?”

Jaitley outlined three steps for achieving an enhanced growth -“investing lot more on infrastructure”, “enhancing public spending into social infrastructure” and “enhancing spending into rural sector, irrigation, rural roads and rural electrification”.

He said 2016 has started on a very challenging note for the entire world, and pointed out under the critically integrated global economy “volatility is the new norm”.

“We have seen in last few days price of oil collapsed. We have seen the currency crisis currently on in China. And obviously the global slowdown,” he said as he referred to the World Bank on Thursday downgrading global growth rate at 2.9 percent in 2016.

Turning his attention to the national scenario, Jaitley said back-to-back less than normal monsoon has brought down the agricultural growth rate.

Iterating that the strength of India lay in its federal polity, and centre-state cooperation mandated by a constitutional structure that binds the centre and the states, he said conventionally states in the eastern part of India have not grown as rapidly as those in the western part.

“And that is why it is this region, from eastern Uttar Pradesh, to Bihar to West Bengal, to the northeast, to Odisha, where the potential for growth is going to be much higher and therefore we have to concentrate for growth in this region,” Jaitley said.

He also said governments across the political spectrum have realised the need to formulate policies to attract investment and expand economic activities.

“There is not only a change in policy formulation, but also in the mindset… even the idiom is changing,” he said, adding each state was calculating how it could ensure ease of business.

Reiterating the need for a suitable environment for industrialisation, Jaitley hit out at the erstwhile Left Front regime for its failure to attract business and affirmed the centre’s commitment to restoring Bengal’s lost glory.

“If we are not in a position to attract that investment, we will be destined to what happened in Bengal for three-and-half decades.

“If investment dries up and starts moving out, there will be no jobs, revenue, there will be hardly any growth and probably we will only have some shallow political slogans to lean back on,” Jaitley said in an obvious reference to the Left Front which was in power for 34 years before being overthrown by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in 2011.

“If Bengal follows a policy which is investment- and business-friendly, I have not the least of doubts that the original glory which belonged to the state can always be restored,” he said.

“I have come here to assure the Bengal government that all policy initiatives that it is going to take for the industrial growth of West Bengal, the central government will support as part of its constitutional obligation,” said Jaitley.

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