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Chamber offers to promote Bengal

Calcutta, Nov. 7: Ficci has made Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee an offer she cannot refuse — step out of Bengal and promote the state.

Mamata, on her part, has agreed to “consider” the request if a “focused” event is held outside the state, the chamber said.

“Ficci will organise a meet outside Bengal where she will address investors. The only condition she has imposed is that the meet should be specific to the state (to which we have agreed). She would very much like to be a part of it,” Kanoria said.

However, the chamber was yet to prepare a road map for these meetings outside Bengal, he said at a press meet after calling on Banerjee at Writers’ Buildings.

Chamber officials said Ficci had mooted the idea of showcasing Bengal among the business community in the rest of the country to improve investor sentiment.

Banerjee appreciated the idea but asked the chamber to come up with a “focused” meet on the eastern region and Bengal. “She said she can consider attending if something like that happens,” an official said.

The development assumes significance as Banerjee has generally avoided meeting investors during business meets of various chambers in Calcutta.

This year Ficci had to do without the chief minister at its showpiece event here. She did not attend the national executive council of Ficci last year also. Industries minister Partha Chatterjee and finance minister Amit Mitra attended the event last year but skipped the meet this year.

The CII has also been unable to get Mamata to attend its national committee meet. As a result, the CII is yet to hold the meet in Calcutta.

Ficci has also invited Mamata to attend its annual general meeting to be held next month. “They came to invite me for their annual meet to be held in Delhi on December 15. They are keen to partner the Bengal government in tourism and invest in Bengal,” Mamata said.

The general refrain of the dozen Ficci members, including president Rajya Vardhan Kanoria, president-elect Naina Lal Kidwai, eastern regional council chairman Gaurav Swarup and industrialists G.P. Goenka and Saroj Poddar who met Mamata, was that Bengal needed to reach out to investors to showcase the state.

“We had told the chief minister that to attract funds, she needs to build a sentiment that will help Bengal realise its dream of becoming a premier in industry,” Kanoria said.

He avoided a direct reply when asked if the statement meant that sentiments about Bengal was not good enough. “You know it better. I don’t have to say it,” Kanoria said.

The chamber felt that the possibilities of getting investment from domestic industry were higher than abroad because of the weak global economic scenario.

“There will be some enlightened states powering ahead while the rest will fall behind,” Kanoria said. The president also suggested that Bengal needed to sort out the issue of land acquisition for industry.

“Land acquisition continues to be a challenge and the CM assured us today that a new land policy was on the anvil. Once this policy is out, we would be able to comment on it. We have told the chief minister that if she is to attract investment, the issue of land needs to be addressed,” Kanoria said.

The chamber declined to comment on the pullout of private port contractor Haldia Bulk Terminals from Haldia because of law and order problem. “I don’t know the details,” he added. However, he later added that the political process should not interfere with industry.

The president and Kidwai also batted strongly for opening up FDI in multi-brand retail.

Core committee meet

The Bengal government will hold a core committee meeting on industry tomorrow. The committee, which was set up to fast-track industrial development, has been meeting irregularly. Tomorrow’s meet is being held after over two months.

A committee member said the deliberations could include preparations for the upcoming trade fair at Haldia, a face-saving exercise following the flak from several quarters on the exit of cargo handler HBT from Haldia.

In another damage-control move, Mamata in a Facebook post today spoke of the improved industrial climate in Bengal. “While 68 lakh man-days were lost in 2009-10, sixty five lakh eighty thousand man-days were lost in 2010-11. But with the inception of the new government, sixty thousand man-days were lost in 2011-12. This year, in 2012-13 (up to September 2012), only five thousand two hundred man-days have been lost.”

 
 
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