Mamata Banerjee on Friday met UAE minister of state for foreign trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi and a LuLu Group International delegation led by its executive director Ashraf Ali M.A. in Dubai where she also hosted a Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) campaign event.
“What an incredibly fruitful day it has been!” the Bengal chief minister posted on X after the meetings and the campaign programme.
“I had the pleasure of meeting with His Excellency @ThaniAlZeyoudi, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade,” Mamata wrote after inviting the minister to the BGBS.
“Our discussions revolved around one key goal: elevating trade relations and exports from West Bengal to the UAE. I couldn’t be prouder to announce that nearly 12% of West Bengal’s total goods exports find a home in the UAE,” she added.
“In our conversation, I had the privilege of showcasing the remarkable economic growth of Bengal which is well on track to reach a staggering GDP of 212 billion US Dollars by 2023-24.”
The chief minister was in the UAE after a visit to Spain to attract investments to Bengal.
At the campaign event, Al Zeyoudi said: “Bengal certainly offers considerable promise for our private sector, and a range of sectors.”
“This reflects in our bilateral trade that was valued at more than 3.3 billion dollars last year, which represents almost 5 per cent of our UAE-India trade,” added the minister. “Ultimately, we recognise that our economies work better when they work in harmony. This is just the beginning of our new journey together.”
Speaking after him, Mamata said Bengal played a prominent role in India-UAE trade and economic relations and exports from the state, including precious metal, jewellery, iron, steel, tea, readymade garments, telecom instruments, petroleum products and marine products to the Middle Eastern nation in 2022-23 amounted to 1.49 billion dollars.
“I hope this relationship will become stronger as trade is key to our future prosperity,” said the chief minister.
At the BGBS campaign event — quite like she did in its Madrid and Barcelona editions — Mamata highlighted the inclusive character of Bengal, along with an abundance of skills, availability of proper infrastructure, a social safety net for the citizenry and empowerment of women in the state.
“Bengal is the only place where you can see unity in diversity, where members of every community visit all religious places. We don’t (perceive) titles or surnames, we (perceive) humanity. That is the purpose of our development,” she said.
Before and after Mamata spoke, several prominent industrialists, Sanjiv Goenka of RPSG Group, Sanjiv Puri of ITC, Harsh Neotia of Ambuja Neotia who were in Mamata’s delegation, lavished praise on Bengal and its investment climate during the Trinamul Congress-regime.
In her address, the chief minister hailed Bengal as a leading state in manufacturing and exports and highlighted various aspects of its soft power. She underscored advantages such as low cost of operation and labour, top-notch human capital, abundant supply of power and excellent connectivity.
“One must invest in Bengal as our talent is a benchmark for the entire world,” said Mamata.
“The infrastructure is ready. We have 200 industrial parks. Land and land-use policies have been made available along with land maps,” she added. “Along with offering a lease for an earmarked period, we have put in provisions to allow freehold rights, if you want to invest your money in the state.”
Earlier in the day, she met the LuLu Group International delegation to discuss possibilities of engagement and investment, such as a “world-class” mall in New Town, retailing or setting up counters of Biswa Bangla products in their malls globally, and back-linkages for procurement of fruits and vegetables for their stores from Bengal alongside setting up food-processing centres.
“There was also an expression of keen interest from LuLu in dairy, poultry, fish-processing and meat-processing. Besides, they showed interest in skill development projects in Bengal,” said Mamata.
Founded by M.A. Yusuff Ali from Kerala, the Abu Dhabi-headquartered LuLu Group International operates a chain of hypermarkets and retail companies. Besides India, it has 230-plus retail stores in the Middle East and North Africa and Southeast Asia.
In India, its has over Rs 20,000 crore invested in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, with a target of enhancing that by Rs 10,000 crore in the next three years. Having already generated over 22,000 jobs in the country, it aims to employ 50,000 people, going forward.
“Today’s meeting with Mr. @asharfalima, Executive Director of LuLu Group International, was immensely promising for Bengal’s growth!” Mamata posted on X after the meeting. She invited the LuLu Group to the BGBS to “deepen our collaboration and set a course for shared prosperity”.
“We delved into a range of exciting possibilities, foremost among them being the prospect of a world-class mall in Newtown. We discussed the global promotion of Biswa (Bangla) products in LuLu Group’s retail outlets,” she added.