West Bengal has never been known for industrialisation and is still associated more with politics, but 2018 saw corporate titans like Ambanis, Adanis and Mittals as also its own Goenkas and Neotias announcing huge investments and jobs here and the state made a big jump on the ease of doing business ranking to figure among the top-ten for the first time ever.
While it still remains to be seen what portion of the staggering amount of Rs 2.2 lakh crore worth investments proposed by the industrialists at the big-bang Bengal Global Business Summit in January has already materialised, the state government has been making right noises to boost its pro-business image and has been getting good support from industrialists as well as economists.
Also, the West Bengal government's Economic Review for 2018-19 showed that the annual growth rate of the state GDP rose from 5.8 per cent in 2015-16 to 11.4 per cent in 2017-18.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is said to have been making serious efforts on attracting investments and creating jobs in the state.
The efforts were reflected in West Bengal's ranking on the national ease of doing business jumping to 10th place, while it was ranked third in terms of 'reforms'.
At the end of the Bengal Global Business Summit, Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee had said the state received new investment proposals worth Rs 2.20 lakh crore with a job creation potential of 20 lakh. Those making the commitments included Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, who said it was nothing short of a "miracle" that the state has adopted a change in mindset to welcome the industry.
Banerjee said 50 per cent of the investment proposals made at the last year's event were already in progress and asserted that Bengal was the new investment destination because of political stability, industry-friendly environment and also because of its strategic location.
Major business groups which announced investments at the summit also included Adani Group, JSW group, Adventz group and RP-Sanjiv Goenka group.
The Summit saw participation from 32 countries, though there was no representation from the central government.
According to the state government, several MNCs including Dassult, Aramco, Samsung and PepsiCo have also expressed business interest.
Later in the year, Banerjee announced a 200-acre plot at New Town, dedicated for a silicon valley hub for high-end IT functions. Already, companies like Jio,
TCS and Capgemini have applied for land parcels there.
The booming e-commerce business also left its mark in the state this year. Flipkart subsidiary Instakart Services would invest Rs 991 crore at Haringhata, about 55 m from Kolkata, for a logistics park with employment potential in excess of 18,000 people.
Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) would invest around Rs 120 crore for a single project with the objective to delivery technological services in the east and north-east with the idea to boost software exports.
The state also got a shot in the arm on getting exploration and licensing of Deocha-Pachami coal block in Bankura district with an aggregate reserve of over 21 million tonnes.
City-based storage battery major Exide Industries also announced an investment of Rs 550 crore for two projects in the state this year.
Praise also came from a group of 13 senior economists, including former RBI Raghuram Rajan and IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath, when they cited example of West Bengal while outlining an economic strategy for India.
Talking about need to reform the healthcare system in India, the group said studies in West Bengal suggest that training the private sector health providers improves their performance by a very significant amount.
They said West Bengal has already begun to train many thousands of private sector health providers and it would make sense for other states to follow the same.
However, there were also warnings from some quarters about the risks from climate change.A study by New Delhi-based climate research group Climate Trends listed West Bengal among the estates facing heightened risks from multiple climate disasters.