Calcutta, Nov. 9: Three hundred and fifty million dollars and three laudatory adjectives should count for a good day in office for any chief minister but for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee they represent the first investment breakthrough of his reign.
Two Indonesian companies will build a township in west Howrah at a cost of $350 million. Plans were also announced for a two-wheeler plant, a coal-mixing project and a golf course ' all three to be funded by Indonesian companies.
The Salim and Ciputra groups are coming together to construct the township over 400 acres, a project that has progressed the farthest among the plans mentioned today by the chief minister.
Flanked by Benny Santoso of the Salim group and I.R. Ciputra of Ciputra, Bhattacharjee said: 'This is the country's first FDI-funded project in a township and we have completed all the formalities.'
It is also the country's largest foreign investment in housing.
To be developed by Beyond Limit International Ltd ' the joint venture company set up by the two Indonesian firms to implement the project ' the township, christened Calcutta West International City, will have 6,800 residential buildings, a commercial complex, health centres and entertainment zones.
'The project will be completed in 10 years and will be home to around 1,50,000 families,' Bhattacharjee said.
With the tinkle of investment came the praise. 'Fast, proactive and forward-looking' ' that's how the chief minister and his government were described by the foreign investors.
Both Santoso and Ciputra, heading conglomerates with an annual turnover in excess of $20 billion, said the chief minister was 'friendly' to investors. Prasoon Mukherjee, the NRI who had worked as the link between the government and the two companies, said the most important facilitator in the investment was 'the chief minister'.
'We are glad to get this opportunity in West Bengal, where the concept of market economy is just three years old,' said Ciputra.
To 'market economy', Bhattacharjee has added the 'human face' by insisting that some of the land in the township be kept aside for housing for the poor. 'They have agreed to our proposal of earmarking 5 to 7 per cent of the land to develop low-cost housing for people below the poverty line,' he said.
The chief minister said Indonesian interest would not be restricted to real estate alone.
'The Salim group is planing to set up a two-wheeler manufacturing unit in Haldia' (The) Bakri group wants to invest in a coal-mixing plant and the Ciputra group is keen to develop an international standard golf course.'
New Year's Day has been set as the kick-off date for work on the township. 'We believe we can deliver international standard commercial and residential complex to the people of West Bengal,' said Santoso.
It was the chief minister's lucky day in more ways than one. Visiting the city, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, said: 'We hear investors are getting interested in Bengal and that is a good sign.'