President kickstarts Mamata’s business meet calling Bengal investment destination (Roundup)

Kolkata, Jan 20 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday gave the thumbs-up to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s bid for industrialisation, as he kickstarted her government’s business summit by asserting the eastern state has emerged as “the investment destination” in the country.

The inaugural day of the two-day Bengal Global Business Summit saw the Chief Minister wooing industries by promising a “friendly environment”, all sorts of relief and highlighting its favourable economic parameters, as a gathering of over 4,000 invitees, including delegates from 29 countries heard her in rapt attention.

Seated among the foreign guests on the Milan Mela ground were Bangladesh Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Upper Silesia province’s Deputy Chief Minister Kazimierz Karolczak from Poland, Incheon’s Mayor Yoo Jeong Bok from Republic of Korea and Vice Minister for Economic Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia Guenther Horzetzky (Germany).

Representatives from Russia, China, Norway, the UAE, Malaysia and Singapore also graced the occasion.

In contrast, many of the frontline domestic business magnets gave the event a miss, the most notable of them being Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, the star of last year’s show.

However, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group’s Chairman Sanjiv Goenka, Hero Motors Ltd’s Managing Director Pankaj Munjal, Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani, The Chatterjee Group’s Chairman Purnendu Chatterjee, Bharti Enterprises’ Vice Chairman Rakesh Bharti Mittal and Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited’s Executive Chairman Yogendra Kumar Modi were in attendance.

Inaugurating the third edition of the BGBS, Mukherjee said: “Bengal has truly emerged as the investment destination and the presence of so many distinguished leaders of business and industries in the summit has proved it.

“Each summit helped and provided lots of opportunities of investments and actual investment has increased substantially.

“This summit will also help reach a new high in the level of investments, economic developments and the performance of Bengal.”

Commending the state government for creating all the necessary ingredients needed for investment, he said the required infrastructure has been put in place.

In this context, he mentioned availability of good roads, adequate electricity, skilled man power, investment-friendly policies and above all, political stability.

“In this premier state, which has already occupied one of the leading positions as an advanced state of India, the state GDP has substantially improved and revenue buoyancy of the state is almost unbelievable.”

Banerjee in her speech raised the issue of demonetisation, saying it has slowed down economic growth, and led to a cash crunch, making it difficult for some industries to make their payments.

Banerjee said her government is giving all sorts of relief to the industry.

“I am appealing to businessmen to come to Bengal. You will get a friendly environment,” she said.

Reminding investors that West Bengal is the gateway to the north-eastern states and neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, Banerjee said the state has a land bank, land use policy, and air, rail and road connectivity, and is also surplus in power.

The Chief Minister said the state GDP has grown by 123 per cent.

“No man-days are lost. We do not allow any strike and blockade. If there is a problem, we sort it out within 24 hours,” she said.

The summit threw up an early surprise, as the Mamata government fielded former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly as the maiden speaker, adding a dash of glamour.

Ganguly made an impassioned plea to business captains to invest in Bengal and lauded the state’s progress in sectors like infrastructure, mineral production, roads, agriculture and education.

“Please come to the state of West Bengal, support the people of West Bengal, because when you invest it decides the future of a lot of young people,” said the local cricket star.

Some of the businessmen pledged investment at the meet itself.

Goenka announced a Rs 10,000 crore investment plan in Bengal, Bharti Mittal promised to pump in Rs 3,500 crore, and Modi assured he would inject nearly Rs 1 billion in a coal bed methane project.

State-run gas major GAIL announced an investment of Rs 6,000 crore in the next two-three years, while Biyani talked about creating an apparel manufacturing hub, and promised to take the Chief Minister’s pet “Biswa Bangla” concept forward through a chain of stores, the first of which would be opened in March-April at Rajarhat.

Chatterjee said his group would invest Rs 1,000 crore in Haldia Petrochemicals and MCCPTA India over a period of 16 months.

Manipal Global Education Chairman T.V. Mohandas Pai said Bengal has framed a startup policy and the target should be to set up 1,000 startups in the next five years.