West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, during India Today Conclave East 2021 session on 'ECONOMIC AGENDA: Growth vs populism: The Bengal model', accused the Centre of destroying the federalist polity of India "piece-by-piece". He said the Centre was hurting the country's federalism structure. "On GST compensation, trust is lost. The Centre has cut central schemes in the name of reorganisation. They even cut our devolution, which is a constitutional right. They increased cess and surcharge."
On the state's rising debt, Mitra defended saying, "When we came to power, the debt to GDP ratio was 44 per cent, which now has reduced to 34 per cent. The state's GDP was Rs 4.5 lakh crore when we came to office, GDP is 12.5 lakh crore today," he added.
Mitra said the state government has kept FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) below 3 per cent every day since the TMC government came to power in the state. "FRBM is the proportion of the GDP that you can borrow. That was 3 per cent before the coronavirus pandemic. We have kept it below 3 per cent every day every year. You cannot talk about debt because Nagaland's debt and Maharashtra's debt are not comparable," he said.
On the Centre's disinvestment plan, Mitra said PSUs must be given autonomy and that disinvestment was not the right answer to get rid of loss-making PSUs.
"After privatisation, they are taken over by global organisations. For example, India's largest private bank HDFC Bank has a foreign holding of 77 per cent. ICICI Bank has a foreign holding of 67 per cent. YES Bank, when the anomalies were reported, got investment worth Rs 9,000 crore from state-run bank," he said.
He added that the fiscal deficit of the state was at 2.9 per cent even in the middle of the coronavirus. "What is the Centre at? 9 per cent," he said. Mitra said the state government is providing 100 per cent health insurance to all the residents of the state without taking a single penny from the Centre.
He said populism and populistic deeds are good for the economy. On the Centre's accusations of West Bengal not implementing the central schemes, Mitra compared the Centre's 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' programme with the Bengal government's 'Kanyashree' -- an initiative taken to improve the life and the status of the girls by helping economically backward families. He also said that 80 per cent of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao funds had gone into advertising.
On investment in the state, Mitra said the state houses Asia's largest leather hub, and that it boasts of all kinds of small, medium, and big factories.