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CM plans to visit Singapore

- Focus on attracting investment in maiden foreign trip

Calcutta, July 11: Mamata Banerjee is likely to pick Singapore as the destination for her first foreign trip as chief minister, Amit Mitra announced today.

Although the itinerary is yet to be finalised, finance and industries minister Mitra said Mamata was “actively considering” a recent invite from the Singapore foreign ministry.

Officials said that during her three years in power, the chief minister had declined invites from the US and the UK.

“She is actively considering going there (Singapore) with a team of key officials and business delegates to explore opportunities of getting investment for the state,” Mitra said on the sidelines of a news conference at Nabanna with a joint delegation of Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL) and Singapore’s Changi Airports International.

Earlier, the delegation met the chief minister to discuss the progress of the airport city project in Burdwan’s Andal. Senior Changi and BAPL officials described the meeting as “fruitful and helpful”.

In a statement issued later today, BAPL said the meeting was held to brief the Bengal government on the project’s “overwhelming progress”.

According to the statement, Changi Airports International chairman Kee Teck Koon presented a “factual overview” of the project as it stood today and thanked the Bengal government for its support.

“They also discussed ways in which Changi can bring in fresh investments exploring new business possibilities from Singapore, into its Aerotropolis project in Bengal and thereby participate in the state’s industrial resurgence,” the BAPL statement said.

Although Mitra said the Singapore visit was under consideration, sources in the chief minister’s secretariat said the trip was “all but finalised”. The sources said the secretariat was exploring the possibility of organising a five-seven days’ trip before the Pujas.

Mamata has been busy with administrative meetings in the districts since the beginning of this month. In the past two weeks, the chief minister held meetings in Hooghly, Burdwan and Birbhum.

According to the sources in her secretariat, Mamata will visit the two Midnapores to inaugurate a cement plant in Salboni and hold administrative meetings before leaving for north Bengal next week. She is also scheduled to address Trinamul supporters at the annual “martyrs’ day” rally in Calcutta on July 21.

“So the Singapore trip will have to take place in August. She is expected to meet Singapore ministers and senior officials besides top business leaders during her visit,” an official said this evening.

“The chief minister plans to take along a battery of officials and businessmen from Bengal. She hopes to make some breakthrough in bringing foreign investment to the state,” he added.

Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had visited Singapore and Indonesia for five days in 2005. Jyoti Basu and Siddhartha Shankar Ray used to frequently go on foreign trips during their terms as chief minister.

It was during his visit to Singapore that Bhattacharjee had decided to initiate work on the aerotropolis project.

“The chief minister has realised that she needs to take Bengal to the world and for that, she has to change her approach,” a senior state government official said.