The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The business of selling Bengal
- German envoy calls for infrastructure boost to trade, tourism

Calcutta is much better than its reputation, and the need of the hour is to “spread the good word around”, feels German consul-general in Calcutta Erhard Zander. He will be chairing the high-profile business seminar to be held on November 22, the second day of the Consular Corps golf tournament in town. “The primary purpose of the business convention, being organised in association with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), is to provide a platform for the state to present its case effectively before an international audience,” Zander explains.

The conference, to be attended by industry representatives from different countries having diplomatic presence in Calcutta, will see a strong government pitch, anchored by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The chief minister, who has identified golf as a vehicle to draw tourism and capital, will host the lunch thereafter. WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee and former economic adviser Jairam Ramesh will also be present.

The German consul-general is confident the business seminar could be a success in selling Bengal as a business destination if “critical inputs and relevant facts and figures from successful and happy ventures” here are made available to the overseas delegates.

“As consular staff, it’s our responsibility to report objectively on trends, which is important for facilitating political and economic decisions. The aim of the Consular Corps is to use this tournament to get decision-makers to Calcutta,” he observes.

Satish Kapur, honorary consul of Finland in the city, agrees that the role of the diplomatic staff is to encourage dialogue. “According to the Vienna Convention, we are supposed to facilitate trade between the host and the guest nations, and this conference can go a long way to achieve that goal,” he says.

While the largest delegation is expected from Germany, industry captains from Australia, Italy, Denmark, Austria and France will also participate. Honorary French consul M.K. Jalan, speaking in the French Senate in Paris on Thursday, also focused on Bengal in his presentation, India — A Big Power Centre in Asia.

State chief secretary S.N. Roy, who attended a luncheon meeting of the Consular Corps on Wednesday, congratulated the organisers of the golf meet for “providing such a structured platform to showcase Bengal”.

Zander, while agreeing that a retail boom in the city and “quality highrises” are definite pluses, feels quite a bit still needs to be done on the infrastructure front. “The Bengal government seems to be riding the surf of a second investment wave, and things could get a lot better from here, with more international flights, proper planning and using the right expertise to implement decisions,” he said.

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