After new industry policies being implemented and business initiatives taken up the West Bengal Government led by Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee, foreign countries are now shifting their focus on the State. Britain has a keen eye to invest heavily in Bengal with the chair of the UK India Business Council telling that the state is India’s “Gateway to South East Asia“.
West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee was invited to visit the UK. Patricia Hewitt, who invited the Chief Minister on behalf of the British organisations, told that the state’s unique geographical position and its tremendous rich in natural resources have made it the next hot spot for British business houses.
Hewitt who was recently in Kolkata said “I was delighted to accept an invitation to give a keynote address at Biswa Bangla the recent showcase for West Bengal as an investment destination and itself an example of “competitive federalism” in action. The West Bengal Chief Minister was very clear that she wants to see more business, more investment and more jobs in the state and I am pleased that she and her finance minister, Dr Amit Mitra accepted my invitation to come and tell the Bengal story in Britain”.
“The challenges in Bengal are much the same as they are elsewhere in India. However, just look at Bengal on a map. It is surrounded by key states like Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand. It straddles the route into Myanmar and ASEAN.In fact it is quicker to fly to Bangkok from Kolkata than it is to fly to Mumbai,“ Hewitt said.
“Added to this, 70% of India’s natural resources are in eastern India, there is a large cluster of mining and metallurgical companies based in Bengal, some with strong foreign links. The state government plans to improve urban, transport and industrial infrastructure, and many UK firms are taking active interest in these emerging opportunities,“ she added.
Hewitt said: “In many ways Bengal is playing catch-up after a slumber caused by some 34 years of Communist party rule. Companies in the UK looking to build business in the region will find that gaining early entry will bring significant gains in the medium term in a part of India that naturally looks east to the fastest growing economies, in ASEAN and East Asia“. Hewitt has had a long and distinguished career in politics and government, including being the longest-serving secretary of state for trade and industry in the last 50 years.
According to her, more than 700 British companies are operating in India and around many of them have a presence in Bengal. These include Standard Chartered, HSBC, BT, MaxBupa, Pavers, Bourneville College, Joy Mining, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, Siemens Vai and Unilever.
West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee recently reported that Bengal’s GDP grew by 7.6% while India’s GDP grew by 4.96% in 2012-13. Bengal’s industrial sector grew by 6.24% while that of India grew by 3.12%. In the services sector, she said that Bengal grew by 9.48% while India grew by 6.59%. According to her, since May 2011, the state has received investment proposals to the tune of £13.6 billion.