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Buddha lines up date with diplomats

Calcutta, Sept. 24: If diplomats don’t come to Bengal, Bengal can go to them.

In a bid to project Bengal as a proactive state that means business, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is leading a team to meet diplomats based in Delhi. To be hosted by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), a city-based industry association, the September 29 meet will give the Writers’ team a chance to interact with representatives of 20 countries.

Writers’ sources said Bhattacharjee’s office made it clear that he wanted to meet ambassadors who have never visited the state but have business interests in the country.

According to the plan, Bhattacharjee will interact with the ambassadors and heads of diplomatic offices in Delhi at a meeting in a five-star hotel in Delhi. The list of countries to be represented in the meeting includes the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, South Korea, Israel, Bangladesh and Denmark.

Senior officials of multilateral funding agencies like the World Bank, US-AID, the Japanese Bank for International Coopertaion and Britain’s department of international development have also signed up for the meet.

“We are happy to host the programme for the government in Delhi. We expect it to deliver long-term results for the state by changing perception and bringing in much-needed foreign investments,” said Nazeeb Arif, the ICC secretary-general. He, however, declined to elaborate on the programme.

The chief minister will be accompanied by industry and commerce minister Nirupam Sen, health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, IT minister Manab Mukherjee, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation chairman Somnath Chatterjee and a host of senior bureaucrats.

Sen is expected to make a presentation on investment opportunities in Bengal and the recent surge in industrial activities in the state.

“It’s good that the government has decided to meet the diplomats as they play a vital role not only in spreading information about a particular state and channelising foreign investments, but also deciding the itinerary of visiting business delegations. Familiarising with them is a good strategy as it increases the state’s visibility,” said an industry observer.

He added that the government shouldn’t make it a “one-off affair” and be in “constant touch” with the missions to improve its performance on the foreign direct investment (FDI) front.

Recent figures suggest that while Bengal has outperformed other states in wooing domestic investors, the state has lagged behind others in attracting FDI. As per data collated by the Union commerce and industries department, Bengal stood second only to Gujarat by attracting Rs 1,422 crore as domestic investment, but its performance on the FDI front was pathetic. It ranked ninth with an FDI of Rs 132 crore as against Rs 4,865 crore of Maharashtra.

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