Promising new frontiers in the field of business investment in West Bengal, the Bengal Global Business Summit kicked off yesterday in Kolkata.
The inauguration of the third edition of Bengal Global Business Summit was graced by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, the Governor of the state, Keshri Nath Tripathi, Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee, state finance minister Amit Mitra and top-notch industrialists such as Kishore Biyani, Sanjiv Goenka, Sajjan Jindal and Rakesh Bharti Mittal. The two-day event is slated to host international representatives from 27 countries and around 3,000 delegates. The ex-Indian cricket captain and a renowned personality of the city, Sourav Ganguly was also present at the inauguration programme.
Amid business prospects and announcements of future investments, the absence of the Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, was assumed as a result of the recent political differences between the centre and the state. The Union Minister who was supposed to attend the event backed out at the last moment, allegedly with the BJP high command asking him to stay away. While the CM of West Bengal again raised the issue of demonetisation during her inaugural speech, stating it as a hindrance to new businesses, President Mukherjee did not miss the opportunity to refer to Jaitley’s absence from the function and remarked, “India’s essential strength lies in cooperative federalism, particularly in the process of its economic development and there is no contradiction in the development of a constituent part of a country as a whole.”
Hefty investment announced
Citing examples of difficulty in doing business during the erstwhile regime, investors and business collaborators such as Sanjiv Goenka and Kishore Biyani, along with the other distinguished business tycoons, announced hefty investment plans in Bengal over the next few years. “The last six years have seen a sea-change in Bengal,” Goenka said in his address to the delegates and audience in the ceremony. “The government under the leadership of Mamata Bannerjee are really quick to respond to issues and are evidently fair without the hangups of trade unions etc. Bengal means business and I am committing an investment of INR 100 billion in the FMCG sector in the state over the next couple of years,” the Chairman of the RP Sanjeev Goyenka Group said.
The Vice-Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, Rakesh Bharti Mittal announced that the company has pumped in about INR 300 billion in the state so far, and with renewed partnership with the state government, the group is looking at a future investment of around INR 30-40 billion in the state over the next 2-3 years. Adding a caution to his announcement, Mittal pointed out two major loopholes in the government policy to attract new investment. With due modesty, the Bharti chief said that West Bengal should now look at a uniform business policy as the charges here are much higher than other states. Also, the state should allow setting up of Airtel towers on government buildings.
The Chairman of Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), BC Tripathi announced, “In an attempt to offer a clean and efficient solution to power problems in the state, we would like to bring new technological developments and West Bengal will be in the thick of things. I am happy to share with you that there will be around INR 60 billion investment in the state of West Bengal over the next two and a half years.”
The inauguration ceremony witnessed distinguished dignitaries from the partner countries Japan, Poland, Italy and Germany. The ambassador of the Netherlands was also quite keen to announce that technology from Europe can be a new way to look at things in various industries in the state. While Amit Mitra, the state Finance Minister, moderated the ceremony, punctuating it with the apt humour and knowledge, the current edition of Bengal Global Business Summit ushers new hope of an industrial revolution in Bengal. However, interstate and national level political differences remain a hindrance as well as a subject of investigation.