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Denmark defines thrust areas

Denmark is ready to enter into business collaboration deals with West Bengal in the fields of bio-technology, healthcare, drinking-water treatment, sewage disposal and dairy products, and is awaiting “specific, prioritised proposals” from the state.

Danish ambassador in India Michael Sternberg, who met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Saturday, said these are the thrust areas identified by the West Bengal government and that his country was prepared to extend all help.

Sternberg, in town for the Navision Consular Corps invitational golf tournament, said: “I am moved by the chief minister’s commitment and knowledge. He wants to make things happen and we should make use of the improved perception of Calcutta, thanks to this golf meet at the wonderful Tollygunge Club, to carry the dialogue forward.”

The Royal Danish Embassy also announced a Rs 31.5-lakh grant for upgradation of a Ramakrishna Mission school in Asansol, as part of the Scandinavian nation’s commitment to improve education infrastructure in West Bengal.

While reiterating Denmark’s pledge to come forward and help in meaningful business projects, the ambassador also had a word of caution about the “financing bottlenecks” in India created by red tape. “Our expectations were higher this year in terms of sealing concrete business deals, following the success of last year’s Consular Corps golf meet here. We must be careful to keep the energy flowing and not let it peter out.”

Keen to ensure that the actual end-user is benefited by Danish aid, Sternberg also discussed the funds-flow constrictions with West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation chairman Somnath Chatterjee. “Even if we extend loans at zero interest to the Centre, according to Indian rules, by the time it reaches the states, it carries a sizeable interest burden, which often makes financing projects here uninteresting,” he said.

Denmark has proposed to extend mixed credit for the thrust-area projects, “40 per cent as grant and 60 per cent at nominal interest rates”, with a rider that 50 per cent of the equipment has to come from Denmark.

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