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Modi wind in CM sails

- First-mover hope for Bengal team in Singapore
Mamata Banerjee

Singapore, Aug. 18: Narendra Modi is likely to offer Mamata Banerjee collateral economic benefits during her maiden overseas trip as the organisers of the Bengal chief minister’s investor meet in Singapore are struggling to accommodate guests for Wednesday’s event.

The Bengal chief minister will address an investor meet, jointly organised by the Indian high commission in Singapore, the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and International Enterprise Singapore, a Singapore government organisation that facilitates overseas investment, on Wednesday morning.

“Around 150 people have already confirmed their participation.... More people are calling and it is difficult to accommodate everyone,” said a representative of one of the organisers.

According to sources, participants at the meeting will include representatives from Makino, a manufacturing major, Cargill, a US headquartered agri firm, multinationals like GE, Shell, Credit Suisse and business space solution company Ascendas. Although several companies have confirmed their presence, attention will also be focused on the response from Temasec and GIC, government-backed wealth funds with investments across the globe.

Senior officials from government bodies like the Public Utilities Board and the National Environment Agency will also take part in the meeting.

“A number of reasons seem to have played a role in generating interest in the meeting,” said one of the organisers.

“There is a renewed interest in India because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Singapore has had close ties with Gujarat even when some western countries had reservations about dealing with Modi,” he added.

Not only has Modi visited Singapore as a chief minister, he has had friendly relations with former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Besides, Singapore will become a “partner country” in the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit to be held in 2015.

A team from the Gujarat government will visit Singapore early next month as part of preparations for Vibrant Gujarat. Teams from several other Indian states will also come to Singapore over the next few months.

The visit of Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has been finalised and he is coming on August 21. Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia will be in Singapore between September 9 and 12.

“Teams from several other states like Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Goa are scheduled to come…. But the Bengal team will surely get a first-mover advantage,” said a source.

A day before the Silk Air flight from Calcutta touched down at Changi International Airport, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj completed her visit to the island city state.

During the trip, she jointly inaugurated the Year of India in Singapore with foreign minister K. Shanmugam to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“The Bengal chief minister can start from where the external affairs minister had ended,” added the source in Singapore.

Several people this newspaper spoke to said the “excitement” with the BJP-led Centre would finally help Mamata.

“This is the chief minister’s first overseas trip to scout for investment…. So, the outcome will be closely monitored,” said a businessman who has come to Singapore as part of the delegation.

On her first day in Singapore, Mamata had a relaxed roster, though industries and finance minister Amit Mitra held a meeting with GIC officials this morning.

After paying tributes at the Indian National Army Memorial, the chief minister went to Jurong Bird Park and the Ramakrishna Mission in Singapore.

“I am meeting the Singapore Prime Minister tomorrow,” she told reporters.

“I am grateful that this memorial has been honoured by Singapore’s National Heritage Board and hope to discuss further tributes to Netaji’s memory with the local government,” a WBIDC media release quoted the Bengal chief minister as saying.


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