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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Mamata Banerjee highlights inclusive character of Bengal in Spain for upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit

Other factors like abundance of skills, availability of proper infrastructure and social safety net for citizenry, especially women, were also mentioned

Devadeep Purohit Calcutta Published 16.09.23, 05:56 AM
Mamata Banerjee speaks at the business conference in Madrid on Friday

Mamata Banerjee speaks at the business conference in Madrid on Friday

Mamata Banerjee on Friday highlighted the inclusive character of Bengal, along with factors like an abundance of skills, availability of proper infrastructure and social safety net for the citizenry, especially women, as she pitched for Spanish investment in the state during a roadshow in Madrid for the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS).

"We love every religion.... I cannot say about other parts (of India), but in our state, we love all castes, all creeds and all communities.... Bengal is number one in terms of social security," the Bengal chief minister said at a business conference held in Westin Palace in the Spanish capital.

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Mamata, along with a clutch of officials and several prominent industry heads, left on September 12 for an 11-day trip to Spain and Dubai as part of a plan to sell the investment potential of Bengal in the run-up to the state's flagship investment summit, BGBS, scheduled from November 21 to 23.

The officials accompanying Mamata held some meetings with industry representatives over the last couple of days and she herself had a session with senior officials of Tempe Grupo Inditex, which retails under popular brands like Zara and Massimo Dutti. But the session on Friday afternoon was the first major industry interaction of her trip.

Probably aware that some recent reports in international media had highlighted rising intolerance towards minorities and attempts at creating a monolithic culture in India, the Bengal chief minister took care to explain the presence of plurality in Bengal.

"Durga Puja is a big festival in our state, but we also celebrate Id and Christmas.... We have the best of relationships with churches, mosques and temples," said the chief minister, who also gave a brief introduction to the country's federal structure before the Spanish audience.

"We have so many states.... There are different political parties, which are running these states. There is unity in diversity.... We are a large democracy," Mamata explained the idea of India that the fledgling INDIA grouping of national Opposition parties think faces a threat under the BJP rule at the Centre.

While the chief minister projected Bengal's liberal landscape, the accompanying representatives of India Inc, like Tarun Jhunjhunwala of Reliance Industries, Umesh Chowdhary of Titagarh Wagons and Shashwat Goenka of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, shared how their investments had grown in Bengal under the Mamata regime.

Over the past few years, Mamata has adopted this model — of using the experience of local businessmen to sell Bengal's investment potential — in several roadshows and business meets organised by the state government. "Business people generally tend to believe what their brethren are saying," said Sanjay Budhia of Patton, also a member of the delegation.

Although the Opposition parties in Bengal have repeatedly said that the investment summits organised by the Mamata regime have failed to attract investments to the state, the government has claimed otherwise. The last edition of the BGBS took place in April of 2022 where the government claimed to have attracted investment proposals of Rs 3.42 lakh crore. In the previous five chapters, a total of Rs 12.35 lakh crore of investment proposals were received, data from a government website showed.

The government sources claimed that the Spanish sojourn had already started yielding results referring to the MoU signed between the state government and La Liga to set up a football academy soon in Bengal and the Tempe Grupo Inditex's interest in setting up a manufacturing facility in the state.

In her address, Mamata repeatedly urged the representatives of the Spanish business community to come and see by themselves the opportunities in Bengal. She also took care to explain the similarities between Bengal and Spain, referring to the bonding between the people because of their fondness for art, culture and football. To connect with the audience, she began with a Spanish greeting — Buenos Dias (Good Day) — and ended with — Gracias (thank you).

Jaime Montalvo, international director, Spain Chamber of Commerce, Alicia Varela Donoso, director general, International Trade and Investment, a wing of the Spanish government, and Juan Ignacio Entrecanales, president, Spain India Council Foundation, also spoke at the programme and highlighted how both Bengal and Spain could benefit from mutual co-operation. Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly also addressed the event.

In 2021, Spain was India's 6th largest trade partner in the European Union. Data from government sources indicate that in 2022, bilateral trade in goods stood at $7.92 billion, growing by 17.6 per cent over a similar period a year ago. Last year, India's exports to Spain grew by 21.3 per cent and stood at $ 6.02 billion while imports grew by 7.3 per cent and stood at US$1.9 billion.

"We are overwhelmed by the Spanish hospitality.... Give us the opportunity to host you. We also organise the International Film Festival around that time and so I invite you all," summed up Mamata.

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