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Singapore PM asks Mamata about free land

Singapore, Aug. 19: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked Mamata Banerjee about availability of free land in Bengal when she went to call on him this afternoon.

“He (Loong) wanted to know whether free land is available in Bengal. I told him about the land bank that we have created in the state for industry,” the Bengal chief minister said at a briefing session later in the day.

“I told him that we want investments from Singapore…. He wanted to know from me about the multinationals operating in Bengal. He also asked which Japanese companies are there in Bengal. I told him about Mitsubishi Chemicals,” she added.

Mamata, along with finance and industries minister Amit Mitra, chief secretary Sanjay Mitra and Indian high commissioner in Singapore Vijay Thakur Singh met the Singapore Prime Minister today.

The chief minister is in Singapore on a five-day tour — her first overseas visit in 15 years — to scout for investments for Bengal.

She announced today that she is also considering visiting the UK, the US, Japan and China — “we have invitations from these countries,” she said — to sell Bengal’s investment potential.

The Bengal government has been trying to develop a land bank from where plots can be allocated for industrial units.

“I told the Prime Minister that we have about 3,000 to 4,000 acres of encroachment-free land available in the bank…. Out of this, around 1,000 acres are in Goaltore (in West Midnapore), which can be utilised for the manufacturing industry,” said Mamata.

During the briefing, Mamata said she realised that the Singapore Prime Minister was aware of developments in Bengal as he asked her specific questions regarding the upcoming airport project in Andal, near Durgapur.

“He asked whether the work on the runway was on,” Mamata said in response to a question.

The airport city project is being developed in association with Changi Airports International, a subsidiary of the Changi Airport Group.

Mamata, during her visit to Andal last September, had expressed her wish of flagging off flights from the airport this April.

Today, the chief minister said: “I told the Prime Minister that the airport will be inaugurated in November.”

She added that the meeting with Loong was “positive and constructive”.

According to her, the Singapore Prime Minister was very cordial and extended a warm welcome to the Bengal team.

Mamata carried a hand-made bag from North Dinajpur, Darjeeling Tea, a Kantha-stitch sari and a warmer (balaposh) from Tantuja and an idol of goddess Durga for him. “I requested him to visit Bengal…. I also proposed setting up a Bengal-Singapore Business Centre for promotion of bilateral ties and requested him to come to inaugurate it,” Mamata said.

The chief minister proposed instituting a chair in the name of Lee Kuan Yew, widely acclaimed as the founder of modern Singapore, a former Prime Minister and Loong’s father, in Calcutta University.