Calcutta Chamber of Commerce: the oldest chamber of commerce in IndiaCalcutta Chamber of Commerce: the oldest chamber of commerce in India
 




 
Major Events 2012-13  
  September 11, 2013 The Park Hotel
Special Session on
EXPANDING TRADE & BUSINESS BETWEEN INDIA AND PHILIPPINES

The Session was addressed by H.E. Mr. Benito B. Valeriano, Hon’ble Ambassador & Mr. John Paul B. Iņigo, Hon’ble Commercial Attache, Embassy of the Philippines in India.

H.E. Mr. Benito B. Valeriano Hon'ble Ambassador stated that a closer examination of the trading data shows that industrial manufactures have emerged as the Philippines' highest exported commodity to India, while India's highest exported goods to the Philippines were food and food preparations, along with industrial manufactures. The flow of Indian investments to the Philippines also showed comparative improvement since 2005. Moreover, the number of Indian tourists has also increased through the years.

Mr. John Paul B. Iņigo was of opinion that 'It appears that India is becoming an important economic partner of the Philippines. In terms of trade direction, the Philippines has successfully increased its exports to as well as imports from India in the past three years'. India is the Philippines' 15th top trading partner in 2012 and 19th export market. The Philippine Advantage is it has attractive investment incentives, rich talent pool and robust infrastructure strategic business location.


  September 10, 2013 The Park Hotel
Special Session on
MARITIME STRATEGY AND SECURITY OF INDIAN TRADE & COMMERCE

The Session was addressed by H.E. Mr. M. K. Narayanan Hon’ble Governor of West Bengal.

Hon'ble Governor of West Bengal Mr. M. K. Narayanan said that India does not spend enough resources on maritime security. "It has always been an issue on how much to spare and for what purpose. Security of the sea has always been neglected". He added "Post-independence India and China had neglected security of seas. Though China has picked up fast, we are lagging behind." " Had these measures been taken at an appropriate time, we could have prevented the multiple terrorist attacks in Mumbai". He suggested India take better advantage of its geographical position and economic growth. He is of opinion that, "India is the only country that can provide security to its neighbours. The inherent strength that it has can be used to its advantage and thus we need to leverage our strategic geographical location".


  August 17, 2013 Taj Bengal
Special Session on
FAMILY BUSINESS MODELS FOR SUSTAINING SUCCESS IN TODAY'S COMPETITIVE WORLD

The Session was addressed by Shri Gopal Srinivasan, Chairman & Managing Director, TVS Capital Funds Limited, Shri P. R. Venketrama Raja, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Ramco Group & Shri Tatwamasi Dixit, Founder, Family Business Research International Centre (FABRIC).

According to Shri Tatwamasi Dixit, the Three Circle Model is generally accepted as the standard model for family businesses and includes family, business and ownership as the three main components. The acknowledgment that there are three separate circles is a significant accomplishment for a family business. Each circle has a governance structure and a plan. A family council would govern the family and prepare a family plan. A management team would lead the business and prepare a management development plan for succession and a business plan. With a mix of professionals and family members in the business, many are advocating for a split in responsibilities, in order to promote a more equable balance of power.

Shri P. R. Venketrama Raja remarked that 'every family has its own unique or distinct set of values, and these values underpin the family business to great degree. Every family brings their own set of values which they transmit into the business. What's important is that the values are communicated and shared across the family. They are commonly driven by the some basic values like mutual trust. Family businesses need a framework for strategizing about who they are as a family or what they want to accomplish as a group. Family cohesion is the key to success across generations. Building a cohesive family business requires a strong sense of connection within the family and a strong sense of pride in what they are doing together-pride in the family business'.

Shri Gopal Srinivasan explained that 'the best family-owned businesses are very professionally managed. I think the idea of family is about ownership and not management. The best multi-generation family businesses strive for very meritocratic management because it is in their best interest to sustain their wealth. There are only two things that family businesses have; their values - it is their First Wealth. Second, in some sense, well-run family businesses worry about their people because people are the means to sustain wealth. And the outcome of these two is really your business performance and long-term success.' He said that 'the best way to think about a multi-generational family business is as a flow across time. Flow from the past, the present and inheritance of the legacy you are passing to the future! So, in many ways, good families have this strong sense of what I call institutional loyalty versus individual loyalty. It is loyalty to what TVS stands for; the reputation we have; the way it opens doors.'


  July 27, 2013 The Oberoi Grand
Panel Discussion and Interactive Session on
JUDICIARY, ETHICS AND JUSTICE DELIVERY IN INDIA

The Session was addressed by Hon'ble Shri Somnath Chatterjee, Bar-at-Law, Senior Advocate, Hon'ble Former Speaker, Lok Sabha, Hon'ble Shri Justice Tarun Chatterjee, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India, Hon'ble Shri Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India & Chairperson, West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee spoke on the need to set up circuit benches of the Supreme Court and high courts so that people in the rural areas have access to the judiciary. He also suggested setting up circuit benches of the Supreme Court and high courts. Somnath Chatterjee said, "More than one fourth of the 906 high court judges' posts are vacant, causing trouble to litigants. The former Speaker also stressed on the need to appoint judges after an impartial scrutiny. He felt there should be impartial and rigorous scrutiny while appointing judges. He mentioned, "With litigation costs rising to an unthinkable level, common people have little access to move the High Courts and Supreme Court for justice. Moreover, delayed justice is further adding to costs." He also criticized judicial activism if it goes beyond judicial review. He said, "Policy matters are beyond the domain of judicial scrutiny. If the judiciary dictates ways to run Parliament, I do not agree. I had said this when the Supreme Court gave its verdict on the Jharkhand Assembly as only the speaker could decide on proceedings of the House,".

Justice Tarun Chatterjee, another former judge of the apex court, spoke about an alternative dispute redressal system. "It is a process of early resolution and lok adalats have performed a crucial role". Justice Tarun Chatterjee said The Supreme Court should ensure only competent people become judges and stressed on the importance of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) system.

Justice Ashok Ganguly, a former Supreme Court judge, said the RTI Act "is a revolutionary step. Every citizen of this country has the right to know. "And Right to Know is an important facet of Right To Speak. It shows democracy is maturing". Integrity of the Act has to be preserved". Citizens should submit questions under the RTI Act as a tool to ensure transparency. "Transparency will help people know about goings-on in government offices. This can be a proper check on government, help curb corruption and the state is accountable to the governed". Justice Ganguly also criticized some judgments of the Supreme Court. He said "The present-day situation in the country is - those who have knowledge have little power and those who have power have little knowledge'.


  June 28 2013, Taj Bengal Kolkata
Special Session on
LEADING BUSINESS IN UNCERTAIN TIMES

The Session was addressed by Shri Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group. The Session was moderated by Shri Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Independent Journalist, Educator and Commentator.

Aditya Birla Group Chairman Shri Kumar Mangalam Birla said “There is policy uncertainty. There is no denying the fact and the Indian industry is well within its rights to speak about that and the industry has correctly pointed out”. Ccorporate needed to push and urge governments for simpler laws and regulations which took away subjectivity and discretion, thus reducing the scope for corruption. Corporate needed to ask for standard processes, which set timelines on issues such as tax refunds. Shri Birla, who inherited the mantle after the untimely demise of his father Aditya Birla in 1995 at the age of 28, said that India still needed to create an enabling environment for corporate entities to set up projects hassle-free. Drawing an example, Birla said that his experience in Brazil was exemplary as his group has been able to commission a Greenfield project within a record time of two years.

He added “However, I still feel that all is not lost. I am optimistic about the future”. Speaking about the recent discovery of shale gas in the US, Birla said: “It is truly an inflexion point for the country.” Energy prices would come down in the US because of this. “Manufacturing activity there will become more cost effective as compared to India. We will be happy to do some Greenfield project there when a good opportunity comes”.

To a query, he admitted that there was real problem with the Maoists. He pointed out that the solution lay in job creation and vocational training. Mr. Birla, who earlier discounted a suggestion that industry should be labour-intensive, said that industry had a large role in job creation and there was need to remove the growth impediments in the economy. “First create jobs, and then provide skills to people,” he said.

Describing the depreciating rupee as an ‘over-crisis’, Mr. Birla felt that the rupee would correct itself. He said that the group managed the fallout of the falling rupee by hedging and taking a conservative view. To a question, he said China did not comply with WTO rules, and had a long way to go before becoming a global player. Asked what China could learn from India, he said that the legal system was much stronger in India. He also said that coalition politics was not bad politics, but it would have to be accompanied by good governance. He felt that organised retail was tough business with thin margins. The group was still nowhere near where it wanted to be, he admitted. At present, the group’s $4 billion activity in US has been spurred by acquisitions. The group has interests in cement, aluminium, fertilisers, textiles, telecom, retail and financial services. Mr. Birla is confident of getting a new banking license. The group’s non-banking financial services arm will apply for the license and promoters will dilute their stake in the company to meet the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) norms.


  May 25 2013, Taj Bengal Kolkata
Panel Discussion & Interactive Session on
EMERGING CAPITAL MARKET SCENARIO - INVESTORS’ CONFIDENCE

The Session was addressed by Shri D.R. Dogra, Managing Director and CEO, CARE Ratings, Shri Bharat Shah, Executive Director, ASK Investment Holdings, Shri Navneet Munot, Executive Director & Chief Investment Officer, SBI Mutual Fund, Shri Kunj Bansal, Chief Investment Officer, Sanlam India.

Shri D. R. Dogra remarked that the Indian capital markets especially the equity markets hold a place of prominence not only in the country’s finance sector but globally too. India’s capital markets are increasingly been seen to be determining the pace and pattern of India’s economic growth. Given the subdued macroeconomic environment corporate, investment plans have been pushed to the sidelines. Primary market issuances in stock and equity markets in FY13 have been below long-term levels. An economic revival is crucial for fund raising activity in the debt and equity markets to pick-up. The domestic primary equity markets (IPO market) have seen fluctuations in recent years, largely on account of the overall global and domestic economic weakness. The stock markets are amongst the most sensitive segments of the economy as the impact of the various developments in the domestic and global arena is immediately felt on the stock markets. It is in this context we look at the domestic macro economic environment. In its attempt to boost/revitalize both the domestic equity markets and to streamline various processes, SEBI has in recent times, proposed a gamut of reforms/amendments to the prevailing regulatory framework in the primary markets. These measures have the potential to have a long-term positive impact on deepening the domestic capital markets, while safeguarding investor interest.

Shri Navneet Munot, said “Real estate prices have risen quite a lot in the last five years and not much incremental money is likely to go into this sector. If gold prices stabilise at current levels, then the charm for gold is also likely to come down. A fall in bond prices might make earning double-digit returns on fixed income unlikely. In such a situation, equities will draw interest in the days to come. The easing of interest rates and commodity prices might help improve corporate profitability and capital efficiency.” “Interest rates seem to have peaked and are likely to come down, commodity prices are also lower and the currency is also likely to stabilise at current levels. This will help improve margins”.

Shri Bharat Shah was of opinion that the improvement in corporate profitability and capital efficiency will soon help boost the Indian equity markets. “Corporate sector profitability seems to have hit rock bottom and from here on, we expect things to look up. There is also likely to be improvement in capital efficiency. Both these factors together will help the equity markets”.

According to Shri Kunj Bansal Credit Rating Agencies have a crucial role to play in boosting investor confidence. Indian Economy is among the fastest growing in the world. Strong domestic demand is back bone of our economy. Monetary policy was directed towards management of inflation. RBI is aiming for sustainable growth in the long-term. While high base in inflation is positive; global oil prices are key. While April WPI surprised positively, elevated CPI & CAD are concerning. There is significant need for investments in infrastructure like airports, ports, roads, power, and railways which is likely to provide investment opportunities.


  May 04 2013, The Conference Room of Calcutta Chamber of Commerce
Special Session on
RELEVANCE OF VEDIC ECONOMICS

The Session was addressed by Prof. Nicholas Kazanas, Renowned Vedic Scholar & Director of Omilos Meleton Cultural Institute, Athens, Greece.

Prof. Nicholas Kazanas remarked that Economics was not a distinct science or sector of life, but an integral aspect of Dharma. Dharma aimed at highest good which was heaven or liberation/Self-realisation, attainable by intellectual/devotional and other yogic practices, like regulations. Man needs land for his very existence! Therefore A householder’s dwelling and his field are considered the two fundamentals of his existence. In ancient period, land belonged to the king who held and protected it for the community and gave it to settlers. Taxes were for his livelihood and government expenses. Father of Economics Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations ‘formulated four canons for taxation: a) the collection of taxes should not cost much; b) they should be certain, not arbitrary; c) they should be collated at taxpayers’ convenience; d) all should pay in proportion to their ability and means. According to Kau?ilya: ‘If settlers on new lands do not produce enough according to the estimated capacity of the site, they lose possession and pay the loss of taxes’. Government expenses were administration, defense; welfare for those who cannot provide for themselves - orphans, widows, aged, infirm etc. As is explained by today’s Nobel Laureates Atkinson & Stieglitz: Land Value Tax alone is necessary to finance public welfare services. Even Marx wants all rents to be collected for government expenses. But however good the system, it will get corrupted unless people become honest, truthful, just.


  April 20 2013, The Park Hotel
Talk & Interactive Session on
INDIA’S CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT IS A CONCERN

The Session was addressed by Shri Saugata Bhattacharya, Sr. Vice President & Chief Economist, Axis Bank, Shri Vedprakash Chaturvedi, Chief Executive, Capital Market & Investment Management Group, L & T Finance Holdings Ltd.

Shri Saugata Bhattacharya commented that India’s integration with world economy has doubled in 8 years. In so far as Merchandise trade deficit is concerned, petroleum import was the main culprit. Recent fall in gold was not a one off. Inflation is expected to average 6% in FY14, vs 7.4% in FY12. Decelerating Food inflation may curtail the wedge with CPI inflation, which may still avg. 8% in FY14, while growth has plummeted. There is deterioration in cash flows amidst declining margins and falling sales. New projects announced declined to a 7-yr low; outstanding projects continued to fall for last 10 quarters. Operative cost of funds had risen much more than repo rates, due to tight liquidity with the maximum impact on smaller companies. Sector-wise Housing construction, cement, steel projects worst affected. According to him, while higher duties will probably reduce demand somewhat, unless fundamental causes of increased gold demand are mitigated, the effect is unlikely to be sustained. That leaves the nation with one choice to set right the external economy - exports. That depends on consumption demand in the West. The US economy contracted in the December quarter and consumer confidence in Europe is sliding, thanks to the unemployment rate of more than a fifth in countries such as Spain and Greece.

Shri Vedprakash Chaturvedi observed that world economy is running at three speeds, with emerging market and developing economies still strong, but the US doing much than the Euro zone among advanced economies. Various markets perform differently in various periods. Over the last year, US Equity Markets have trended upwards and are on continuous upper path while on the other hand, bond yields have trended down. Developed markets Outperform emerging markets in FY 13. US markets is on quick upward movement; trading at all time high; while Japan surprisingly lead the chart and would hope to continue after the recent Quantitative Easing program but the fear of carry trade looms. Growth is Slowing Down. The current IIP reading points to continued weakness in industrial production, while turnaround in capital goods sector is yet to be established on any firm footing. External Debt Rises. Core Inflation slips below 4.0%, near to three year low. India’s current account deficit (CAD) surged to 6.7% of GDP in the third quarter of FY13. This is driven by a sharp jump in the trade deficit due to primary reason of gold imports and oil import bill. Assuming policy measures to reduce demand for gold by 5-10%, the recent price moderation in Gold price will further disincentivise consumers to buy gold as an investment option. Oil price elasticity should have a positive impact and moderation in income growth can also result in reduced oil consumption.


  April 05 2013, Yangon region, Mandalay Region, Bagan, Myanmar
VISIT OF CALCUTTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BUSINESS DELEGATION TO MYANMAR

A 21 members delegation of Calcutta Chamber of Commerce visited Myanmar from 1st - 5th April 2013 to explore possibilities and opportunities in Border Trade, Bilateral Trade & Investment in Myanmar. The delegation visited Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon.

The trade Delegation was led by President of the Chamber Mrs. Alka Bangur of LN Bangur Group. The 21 members delegation represented a very wide sector which included Mr Hari Prasad Kanoria of Srei Group, Mr Sushil Jhunjhunwala of La Opala, Mr Harsh V. Patodia the National VP of Credai, Mr Satish Jhunjhunwala of Victory Iron, Mr. Omprakash Agarwal, East India Sales & Services (P) Ltd., Mr. Brahmananda Agarwala, D.M. Fabrics Pvt. Ltd., Mr. Dinesh Jain, AUM Capital Market Pvt Ltd, Mr. Bhagwan Ramnani, Vensimal World Travel Agents (P) Ltd., Mr. Vivek Tibrewalla, Pinnacle International, Mr. Rohit Chomal, Sunrise Minerals & Ore Pvt. Ltd, Smt. Lata Bajoria, Hooghly Mills Ltd., Smt. Meenakshi Bangur, Digjam Limited. Mr Mahesh Saharia, Saharia Group of Industries & Plantations, known for his work on connectivity of North East with ASEAN was the co-leader of the delegation.

The delegation had successful meetings with the Chief Minister of Yangon, Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Economy & Planning of Mandalay Region, and Minister for Agriculture of Sagaing Region which borders the North East parts of India, Mandalay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MRCCI), Monywa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI). The delegation had an elaborate meeting with the Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Yangon and The Consul General of India in Mandalay.

In different meetings held with the Ministers as well as the Chambers of Commerce, all of them clearly indicated that the Myanmar Government holds India as a strategic partner in its development endeavour. The new Government has declared and is implementing a policy of irreversible democratic process. It is rapidly implementing a policy of reforms and changes in almost all sectors of the country. The govt. is actively introducing facilitations and liberalizations to all sectors and of particular importance to those related to economic development.

Most of exports of Myanmar are primary agricultural products besides timber and precious and semi precious stones. There are vast opportunities to invest in agriculture, food production, labour intensive industries such as garment and shoe manufacture, value added production extraction industries and various others. foreign investment is particularly welcome in the export-oriented industries such as textiles, agro-based industries, green jute pulp, paper, rayon products, tourism, agriculture, light industries, software and data processing, pharmaceutical goods, Infrastructure, Hospitals and clinics, Telecommunications. The Government and UMFCCI assured the delegation all assistance wherever possible, to assist members delegation in establishing contacts with potential business partners in different regions of Myanmar etc.

Smt. Alka Bangur, President, Calcutta Chamber of Commerce and leader of the Delegation while recalling the historical relations between India and Myanmar over the centuries remarked that the need of the time is to write now a fresh Chapter of economic, cultural and strategic relations based on mutual cooperation drawing on complimentary in a win-win situation. India and Myanmar share a long border, there is long history of cultural and religious affinity and with the experience gained in last over 60 years since Independence, India can be a strong partner of Myanmar in its sincere efforts of economic development and poverty elevation. Appreciating the various positive initiatives already taken by the Govt of India, Mrs Bangur commented that the private sector of India is also eager to participate and contribute in resurgence of Myanmar.

Mr Saharia Co-leader emphasized on the closer cooperation between North Eastern States and Myanmar and in removing all the obstacles in connecting the approved routes between 4 States of North East with Myanmar so that India and ASEAN who have already entered into the new phase of strategic partnership can fully draw upon its potential which will greatly benefit Myanmar which is the Gateway to Asean. Mr Saharia urged the Government of both sides to initiate steps to convert the informal trade to formal trade in Moreh-Tamu border and then take further steps to make seamless trade to reach Thailand through the India-Thailand Friendship Road which is to be fully operationalise by 2016.

Chief Minister of Yangon Region HE U Myint Swe while welcoming the investment from the members of CCC accepted the invitation of the President Mrs Bangur to visit Kolkata soon leading a business delegation. CM was also joined and assisted by HE Daw San San Nwe, Finance & Revenue Minister, HE U Kyaw Soe Ministry of Forestry and Energy, HE U Than Myint Minister for Planning & Economic, who all also participated in the discussion. The delegation also emphasized upon the need for cooperation in health and education sector and Mrs Bangur President offered assistance in this regard.

The great success of the delegation of Calcutta Chamber of Commerce, Mrs Bangur attributed to the excellent preparatory work done and guidance provided by the Consul General of India at Mandalay Dr M M Sethi and by the Embassy of India, particularly Mr Y K Sailas Thangal, Charge d' Affaires and Dr S Janakiraman, First Secretary (Eco & Commerce). Earlier on arrival Embassy of India at Yangon and Consulate of India at Mandalay briefed the delegates with current situation in Myanmar, the initiatives of Govt of India and the various opportunities and challenges which the fast changing Myanmar offers which helped the delegates to understand and appreciate the situation.

Calcutta Chamber delegation made positive move forward in various areas and sectors during the visit which included sectors like Agriculture and Machinery, Textile, Realty sector, Infrastructure, glass wares, manufacture of cast iron, steel billets manufacturing, financial services, minerals, power, jute, tea, tourism etc. Calcutta Chamber delegation returned with the definite impression that the ongoing transformation to Democracy is irreversible, huge potential and opportunities lies in Myanmar and India needs to have a very proactive approach.

The delegation noticed the attention which Myanmar was attracting from different parts of the world as two other delegations from Norway and Indonesia were staying at the same time in the same hotel where Calcutta Chamber delegation was staying besides the visit of Singapore President at Yangon on the same day.


  March 16 2013, The Park Hotel
Talk & Interactive Session on
EXPANDING TRADE & BUSINESS BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

The Session was addressed by Mr. Zhang Lizhong, Hon’ble Consul General, Consulate of People’s Republic of China & Ms. Pan Huining, Hon’ble Economic and Commercial Consul.

To strengthen and reshape the bilateral trade between India and China that has fallen by 12 per cent to US $66 billion in 2012 over 2011, representatives of the Chinese Government invited Indian companies to invest in their new manufacturing sectors.

Mr. Zhang Lizhong, Consul General of China said that “Although there has been a decline in the bilateral trade but we will soon recover it by encouraging mutual investment in both the countries,”. “We have invited India to participate in and support the mutual investment in energy saving firms, information technology, agriculture and tourism industry”. Stressing on mutual investments he said: “It will help shifting from the current model of investment,” adding that, the target of $100 billion bilateral trade by 2015 will be achieved by mutually investing in both the countries. “The present trade model is becoming unsustainable, so we are trying to exploit new trade potentialities for a smooth transition,”. India exports iron ore, fabric, cotton, salt, copper, organic chemicals, plastic, reactors, and boilers to China. However, in view of the depressed trade scenario, China is calling for investment in environmental projects and other sectors that have the potential to improve and boost the economy.

Speaking about tourism industry Ms. Pan Huining, Economic and Commercial Consul, of China in Kolkata said : “Tourism industry has more potentiality. In 2012, there has been an increase of 15.2 per cent in Indian tourist to China than the previous year. We need to explore more”.

Diversified New Hope Group of China is keen to set up an animal feed plant by investing Rs.80 crore over a period of two years in Bengal.

Mr. Adrian Lee, Project Assistant (Indian branch - overseas business operation centre), New Hope Liuhe Co Ltd. remarked that, “First, we want to open an animal feed factory. We require land of around 10 acres during the try-out phase. This will take two years. If this goes well, we will continue to open more factories,”. “We want land near the port because of traffic reasons. It is easy to import and export. We already have companies in Sir Lanka and Vietnam,”. He said the group imported raw material for animal feed from India and wanted to have a manufacturing base in the country. The Indian venture will help to produce finished products for the local market and assist in the export of animal feed raw materials such as maize to China. Lee said they were open to joining hands with a local firm


  March 02 2013, The Park Hotel
Talk & Interactive Session on
UNION BUDGET 2013-14 - AN ANALYSIS

The Session was addressed by Dr. Abhijit Sen, Senior Chartered Accountant & Former President, Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Prof. Abhirup Sarkar, Economic Research Unit, Indian statistical Institute & Vice Chairman, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Shri Amitav Kothari Senior Chartered Accountant & Prof. (Dr.) Suman K Mukerjee Dean & Principal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Institute of Management Science, Kolkata.

Prof. (Dr.) Suman K Mukerjee remarked that the finance minister may re-visit the personal tax exemption limit and give some benefits to the salaried class people as the measure would leave more money in the hands of consumer and revive economic demand. But several steps announced in the area of agriculture and rural development would help resurrect the economic activities in the hinterland. He added that as most of the projects are stalled due to regulatory and bureaucratic delays, the expectations from the budget to ease the process of clearances is not met since the effectiveness of Cabinet Committee on Investment is yet to be established.

Shri Amitav Kothari said that when the FM announced introduction of DTC bill in this budget session, then what is the logic of bringing 50 amendments in the IT Bill.

Prof. Abhirup Sarkar viewed that the budget, with the limited availability of fiscal space, attempted to bring fiscal consolidation with lower fiscal deficit of 4.8% and simultaneously made higher allocations to various schemes to spur investments. Higher allocation of 29.4% towards plan expenditure and increased outlays for social infrastructure, education, rural development, health and urban development are also expected to stimulate economic activity.

Dr. Abhijit Sen indicated that the announcement of 15% incentive for acquisition and installation of plant and machinery by manufacturing companies during the period beginning from 1st April 2013 and ending 31st March 2015 is a welcome step to boost the investment. But the two year period is too short. The Chamber should take up the matter in their post budget reaction with Finance Ministry.


  February 13 2013, The Park Hotel
Talk & Interactive Session on
INDIA - GERMANY BILATERAL RELATIONS.

The Session was addressed by Mr. Rainer Schmiedchen, German Consul-General in Kolkata.

Mr. Rainer Schmiedchen said that Bengal should highlight its strengths and successes to have an edge over other states in attracting investments and offset the image loss suffered from the exit of the Tatas’ Nano project. “Business is developing. While other parts of India may be considered more attractive, German businessmen may not know anything about Calcutta and Bengal. The Tata case is known all over the German business community. The advantages of the state need to be showcased to neutralize that one bad example”. On the need to change the land policy of the state, Schmiedchen said, “I do not think the land policy has to be revised. No German investment in the state has been hurt by the land question. In fact, a German company, BASF, was given land during Bengal Leads at Haldia. Land is difficult to find in Bengal for industrial purposes compared with Gujarat. Land elsewhere may not be as valuable as it is here”. He said Bengal would highlight its strength in tourism at the largest international tourism fair scheduled to be held in Berlin in March. A delegation led by state finance minister Amit Mitra will attend the fair.

Several German companies such as Siemens, Metro Cash & Carry, Gontermann Peiper and Otto India have been associated with Bengal. Nationally, in the last three years, German auto giants such as BMW, Daimler, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche and Man AG have established manufacturing facilities and assembly units in the country. India has initiated about 40 projects in Germany in the last 10 years, 20 of which are in the software and IT sectors. Bilateral trade has increased to $24.21 billion in 2011 from about $15 billion in 2007. Germany has been the eighth largest investor in India with cumulative FDI inflows of $5.05 billion.

The Consul General also made a special announcement for issuing long-term visa upto five years for the businessman in the State. “The decision to provide long-term has been taken after an increase in business between West Bengal and Germany. The long term visas of up to five years would be issued only to be business community.” He also spoke about the close bilateral ties between the two countries and the bonhomie among the citizens.


  January 12 2013, The Park Hotel
Panel Discussion and Interactive Session on
HAS THE MEDIA FAILED THE PEOPLE?

Prof. Saugata Roy, Hon’ble Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), Member for Industry & IT, Chief Minister’s Advisory Council Government of West Bengal graced the occasion as Chief Guest. The other confirmed panelists were Dr Rudranghshu Mukherjee, Editor, Editorial Pages, The Telegraph, Shri Rahul Kanwal, Editor, Aaj Tak / Headlines Today, Shri Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor, “The Hindu”, Ms Anjali Bhardwaj, Civil Society Activist and Shri Rahul Bose, Film Actor. The Session was moderated by Shri Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Independent Journalist, Educator and Commentator.

Shri Saugata Roy’s remarked that he did not believe in censorship of the media. Mr. Roy said that he did not think media controlled voters and he was not among those politicians to have “a love-hate relationship with the media.” “When a person goes out to vote, he votes on the basis of his own experience, not on the basis of what is written in the press or what is broadcast in the media. However, Shri Saugata Roy, categorically blamed the media for letting down the countrymen. According to him, business interests have been given preference with businessmen controlling media houses and rural reporting was one such casualty.

Shri Siddharth Varadarajan said that the quality of news coverage by the Indian media has vastly improved over the last few decades. On the flipside, however, the Fourth Estate is facing major concerns such as paid news and declining language skills. He also pointed out that there are several other institutions which are also failing the people, citing the example of an expose of a fake encounter in Jammu and Kashmir that was conducted in March 2000. But a decade later, the trials of guilty soldiers were yet to commence. “At the end of the day if you don’t trigger correction at the judicial level, at the political level or at the level of civil society, then there is only so much we can do,” he said.

Shri Rahul Bose turned the argument on its head questioning whether it was the people of India who had failed their media. He asked, “After we finished collectively exulting at Ram Leela Maidan or lighting candles at India Gate or collectively shouting ourselves hoarse in some public forum we wait for the next problem to burst. Do we sustain the pressure? Do we support, recognize, encourage or fund organizations that have been fighting for those very causes for decades? Do we change attitudes within us”?

Shri Rudranghshu Mukherjee opined that the media has played an important role. He argued that the fall in ethical standards among politicians had been far greater than among journalists. Shri Rahul Kanwal proposed that the media had not failed the country, largely because it is a “self-correcting animal.” Ms. Anjali Bhardwaj described at length the expectations that civil society has from the media and the extent to which it had fulfilled them.


  December 14 2012, The Oberoi Grand
Convention on
DYNAMICS OF GROWING INDIA-BANGLADESH RELATIONS: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES

The Convention was addressed by Hon’ble Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, Mr. Ghulam Muhammed Quader, Mr. Partha Chatterjee, Hon’ble Minister for Commerce and Industries, Dr. Anup K. Pujari, Director General of Foreign Trade & Ms. Abida Islam, Hon’ble Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata.

Mr. Ghulam Muhammed Quader told that “We will vigorously cooperate with the Government of India and West Bengal to find just solutions to all outstanding issues. But to ensure lasting peace in the region, promoting regional connectivity and simplifying bilateral business is much-needed”. Adding that despite strong cultural bond, a shared history and close proximity, economic ties between Bengal and Bangladesh were far below potential. “Less than a dozen of over 30 Land Custom Stations along Indo-Bangladesh border are used due to inefficient, facilities. But for a constructive, sustained and result-oriented engagement between the two, improving existing infrastructure is imperative”.

Agreeing with Mr. Quader, Mr. Partha Chatterjee said there existed enormous potential for cooperation between West Bengal and Bangladesh provided there are determined efforts from either side. Improving economic ties by linking Bengal with Bangladesh will be particularly beneficial for the business communities in the region. He further said, “We attach a lot of importance to our ties with Bangladesh and want to play a proactive role to facilitate a cultural and economic exchange. I will take up the issue of improving the road leading to Petrapole-Benapole checkpoint on Bengal-Bangladesh border with our Chief Minister”.

With almost 50 percent of India’s trade with Bangladesh going through the land route, Director General of Foreign Trade dr. Anup K. Pujari Friday called for better land customs stations (LCS) management. “Our mutual trade with Bangladesh has been steadily growing, but transaction costs continue to be our biggest concern. There is an urgent need for better LCS management as bulk of the trade is done through the LCSs. Pujari said, “There should be a unified weighment system with a single entity being entrusted to carry out the weighing process, which will not only eliminate the difference in weights but will also result in cutting down transportation time,”. “Moreover, trucks from India should be allowed to enter Bangladesh to load and unload and vice versa, which will help reduce transportation time as well as costs,” he added. Pujari said that almost 50 percent of the trade with Bangladesh was carried through LCSs. Over 81 percent of imports from Bangladesh and 43 percent of India’s export to the country were transacted through land in the last nine months of the current year. “There is a huge scope for mutual trade to grow and the need of the hour is to simplify and harmonise customs procedures and documentation, develop infrastructure and introduce unified weighing system”.


  November 03 2012, The Park Hotel
Talk & Interactive Session on
FURTHERING TRADE TIES BETWEEN INDIA AND ITALY

The Talk & Interactive Session was addressed by Mr. Joel Melchiori, Hon’ble Consul General, Consulate General of Italy, Kolkata, Ms. Erica Di Giovancarlo, Italian Trade Commissioner to India & Mr. Pankaj Parekh, Chairman, Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata.

Mr. Joel Melchiori, Consulate General of Italy in Kolkata remarked that Italy is offering a single-window clearance for Indian investors with an aim to double bilateral trade between the two countries by 2050, an official said today. “We have come up with a new scheme for businessmen setting up a business in Italy”.

“There will be a single - window clearance for everything including legal consultation and fast-track visa process”.

Ms. Erica Di Giovancarlo, head of the Italian Trade Commission in India, said there is a great scope to increase cooperation in sectors like automobile, automotive, textiles, and food processing sector. “At present 400 Italian companies have presence in India mainly in textile and automotive. India and Italy have increased their bilateral trade from €700 million in 1981 to €8.5 billion in 2011”. She said Italy’s aim is to transfer technical know-how and provide training to Indian companies in technology and increase their production. India’s demography and retail boom are the two driving factors of growth that attracts Italian companies. While talking about challenges, Erica said high import duty remains a concern.

Mr. Pankaj Parikh, Chairman of Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata, said lifestyle, heritage and infrastructure are some areas where Indian companies can use Italian partnership.


  October 05 2012, The Park Hotel
Talk & Interactive Session on
PROMOTING INDIA - JAPAN PARTNERSHIP

The Talk & Interactive Session was addressed by Mr. Mitsuo Kawaguchi, Hon’ble Consul General of Japan in Kolkata.

Consul General of Japan Mr. Mitsuo Kawaguchi said, “The value of two-way trade between our two countries has reached USD 14 billion in 2010-11. Target is to increase it to the USD 25 billion mark by 2014. I think it won’t be an over ambitious target because our bilateral trade is still far below potential and there is enough room to expand it”. He said India's export to Japan had started showing an uptrend even before the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed. The CEPA was signed in February 2011 and came into force in August last year. India’s export to Japan was about USD five billion in 2010-11, against around USD 3 billion earlier. Mr. Kawaguchi said India’s exports to Japan mainly included mineral fuels, mineral oils, natural and cultured pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, iron and steel, fish and crustaceans, and fodder. On the other hand, Japan exports items to India include boilers, machinery appliances, optical, medical and surgical instruments, and articles of iron and steel. Besides, he said, foreign direct investment from Japan to India between April 2000 and 2019 was USD 13.3 billion, placing that country in the fourth place after Mauritius, Singapore and Britain.


  September 04 2012, The Bengal Club
Talk & Interactive Session on
NEW SERVICE TAX REGIME & CONCEPT OF NEGATIVE LIST

The session was addressed by Shri Mayank Sharma, Assistant Commissioner, Service Tax, Kolkata, Shri Madhukar N Hiregange, Senior Chartered Accountant, Bangalore & Chairman, Indirect Tax Committee, ICAI, New Delhi and Shri Arun Agarwal, Senior Chartered Accountant.

Shri Mayank Sharma in his speech remarked that a new service tax regime, based on a negative list of exempted services, has come into effect from July 2012. All services - except the 38 activities put on the negative list - will come under the tax at the increased rate of 12 per cent, as announced in the Union budget. As of now, service tax is being levied on 119 services based on a positive list. The switch-over to a negative list-based approach is aimed at aligning the indirect taxation system to the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which is sought to be introduced to unify the levies of the Centre and the States into a composite system.

Shri Madhukar N Hiregange was of opinion that the implementation of a negative list removes any non-considered biases caused by the present system which plays favorites by taxing some services and leaving others out of the tax net albeit at the cost of small / medium / unorganized service providers. This change from “selective” basis to “comprehensive” basis is normally observed when developing countries become developed. The onus of compliance has shifted from the revenue proving a classification and consequent liability to the tax payer proving how exemption is available. Considering the level of education and unorganized sector involved in providing services, this may lead to widespread non compliance and consequent corruption increase. He also added in India we have one of the most cumbersome and complicated law coupled with large scale corruption and therefore this was quite premature.

He further said that the new scheme of taxation for works contract is going to ease the complexities as all types of works contract is brought into one umbrella. However practically there may be lot of challenges which the businessmen have to face to align the existing practices to the new scheme considering various business propositions. The lack of clarity in classification would also lead to more complex and irresolvable issues cropping up.

Shri Arun Agarwal indicated in his speech that one silent feature of the new regime which will cause horrible experience to industry is reverse charge mechanism. By virtue of this mechanism Govt. has assumed power to shift responsibility of payment of tax on service receiver fully or partially. Under this mechanism full service tax is to be paid by Service Receiver in case of services provided or agreed to be provided by an insurance agent, Goods Transport, Sponsorship Service, Arbitral Tribunal, Advocate or firm of Advocate, services by Government or local authority by way of support services, services by any person who is located in a non-taxable territory and received by any person located in the taxable territory and services by way of renting of a motor vehicle designed to carry passengers on abated value to any person who is not engaged in the similar line of business and by Director of a company to company. A situation may arise in which service provider may be availing exemption and not charging service tax due to him but as a receiver of service, Industry will have to discharge tax to the extent as applicable to service receiver.


 

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