Centre can consider 20-year term loan, debt restructuring: Mitra

Finance Minister Amit Mitra said, however, that the state government will "not beg" for financial aid.

New Delhi: West Bengal government, reeling under a massive debt burden, on Saturday suggested the Centre could consider a term loan of 20 years, debt restructuring and a 3-year moratorium on interest payment to help the state tide over its financial problem.

Finance Minister Amit Mitra said, however, that the state government will "not beg" for financial aid.

"I assume that the new Finance Minister is busy with his own issues. We are not going to beg to anybody," he said, adding the estimated debt burden was about a whopping Rs two lakh crore.

However, Mitra said the Congress-led government at the Centre, from which Trinamool Congress withdrew support, could "at least consider a term loan of 20 years".

He also said debt restructuring and a moratorium period of at least three years on interest payment could also be considered by the Centre.

The state government has targeted to collect about Rs 31,000 crore in revenues in current fiscal without raising tax rates, he said at the India International Trade Fair here.

The 13th Finance Commission has identified West Bengal,
along with Kerala and Punjab, as the debt-stressed states.
"West Bengal`s debt:GDP ratio is almost double of the other two states. So, the Centre should at least consider West Bengal (for debt restructuring)," Mitra said.

Maintaining that tourism and ports were the main sectors where the state was seeking investments, the Minister said the tourism department had identified 207 acres of land for destination development and identified land for a proposed Giant Wheel in Kolkata on the lines of the London Eye.

"Land, identified at an attractive location, would be offered to a private sector partner selected through the public-private partnership (PPP) framework," Mitra said, adding the project worth about Rs 600 crore would be offered for bids by December-end.

On the issue of land acquisition, he said the state has created a land bank and some land was already available.

On attracting investment for port development in the
state, Mitra said "we are constructing two ports and both will be developed in PPP mode." The port projects are being constructed at Rasulpur and Sagar Island.

About the investment atmosphere in the state, he said "there is a major change that is taking place. If the state government`s initiatives are implemented, there will be structural changes."

A number of corporates were keen on investing in West Bengal as they see "new energy" in the state. "They feel Kolkata has a good potential, good human capital and a government which has no (ideological) baggage."

"We are not drawn by ideologies that are totally confused. ... The state has energy and leadership with honesty and integrity. Today, corruption is the buzzword across the country in many places in politics but not in West Bengal," the West Bengal Minister said.

Among the initiatives to attract investments to be implemented from the next fiscal, the state government would provide the facility of paying taxes like stamp duty, motor vehicle tax, land revenue and VAT through net banking or a debit card.

"e-tendering is being made compulsory. Ten departments will adopt e-tendering of all government projects. E-tendering cannot be manipulated," he said.