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West Bengal Trade Convention inaugurated

Posted on Feb 18, 09:55PM | IBNS

Kolkata , Feb 18 : West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra along with veteran politician and former Union Minister Saugata Roy on Sunday jointly inaugurated the West Bengal Trade Convention-2013 at Mahajati Sadan, here.

The trade Convention was hosted by the Confederation of West Bengal Trade Associations (CWBTA) along with all the other major trade bodies of West Bengal representing over 5 lakh small and big traders in the state.

The Convention was aimed at addressing some of the vexed issues ailing the traders in the state.

CWBTA noted that traders in West Bengal have been long disadvantaged by lack of institutional support and skill development mechanisms and this has been a major detriment to the growth of trade in the state.

Thus the focus of the Convention is to arrive at a common ground and work out a course of action to further the growth of trade in the region, making West Bengal the Gateway to the East, said CWBTA.

CWBTA Founder President & Chairman, Feroze H. Ali said, "Currently, West Bengal, in all, has an estimated 2 million traders. While Kolkata alone has nearly 7 lakh trade license holders and another 3 lakh traders are engaged in the unorganized sector."

Ali added, "During the current fiscal year, so far, 55,000 plus new trade licenses were issued in the city. There is a trend of modernization with nearly 60 percent of traders in city using inventory management and billing software."

He said, "The trading sector in the state provides direct employment to 40 lakh people and another 25 lakh are indirectly engaged on the basis of services consumed on account of trading."

CWBTA said that the Convention has been organized to highlight the compelling need to evolve ways and means to work together with various stakeholders to work out a mutually-agreed agenda to remove the stumbling blocks faced by small and big traders in the state.

All the major trade bodies and umbrella organizations like FTO, FTA, UTO, West Bengal Distributor's Association, Midnapore District Chamber of Commerce, Malda Merchants Chamber of Commerce, Gazole Merchants Association, Chamber of Commerce Gangarampur, Hardware Merchants Association, Siliguri & FOCIN, Siliguri, Federation of South Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry participated at the
Convention to press for the core demands.

The trade Convention demanded a separate Ministry of Trade, both at the Center and state level, to be constituted to address issues and problems that are specific to the trading sector by the current Industry and Commerce Ministry.

The trading fraternity demanded the constitution of a "Review Commission" and/or "Special Taskforce" under the Prime Minister's Office at the Centre & CMO in the State to scrap/amend many of the laws governing trade which are over 40 to 60 years old and most of these should be re-framed so as to make them relevant to the changing times.

On Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail trade, the traders said they demand a level -playing field, seeking institutional support for reserving certain categories of business activities exclusive for trade as is the case with SSIs and SMEs providing the infrastructure to the small and medium traders to remodel their business format with soft loan and other incentives.

Ali asserted, "The Government of India, like the Govt of West Bengal, should focus on investment in back-end infrastructure operations like cold chain, warehouses, speedy food distribution mechanisms."

He said, "The government should leverage the collective strength of the trading sector across India and scrap the idea of FDI in retail trade lest it awakens a sleeping tiger."

Amit Mitra addressing the Convention said, "Kolkata has approx 6.5 lakh trader base. In 2012-13 (first 10 months) there has been 55,000 new traders who have enrolled in Kolkata."

Mitra said, "This is an all time record in the city. This has been possible due to transparency in issuing licenses. Another fact that makes me really feel proud is that, of the 7 lakh traders, four lakh use inventory management and billing software."

"The trade in West Bengal gives employment to 4 million people."

He asserted, "This year we should target Rs 12,000 crore."

Giving statistical data, he asserted, "From April-September (2012-13) there has been a 35 percent increase in tax mop us. This is a record."

"But my target is a conservative one of 25 precent pa. If this target is met the state will generate Rs 31,000 crores through taxes."

"In two years, West Bengal has increased income through taxes from Rs 21,000 crores to Rs 31,000 crores. This is a record."