The anti-demonetisation protest seems to have taken a toll on the Bengal Global Business Summit, the state government’s flagship investor meet.

Unlike the second edition, which was a star-studded affair with prominent businessmen such as Mukesh Ambani and a contingent of Union ministers attending the event, the 2017 edition was shunned by Central ministers, indicating the soured relations between the Centre and Mamata Banerjee-led state government.

Mamata Banerjee had said she was not against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley leading a national government if Narendra Modi stepped down owning responsibility for the demonetisation fiasco. Sources pointed out that this was an attempt to keep Centre-State relations free of politics.

President Pranab Mukherjee, who inaugurated the two-day summit, harped on cooperative federalism.

“When I was sent the invitation to attend the meet, I thought whether it will be proper to do that as the President of the Republic. But I felt that as India is cooperative federalism, it lay on the strength of every state,” Mukherjee said.

“India’s strength lies in cooperative federalism especially when it comes to economic development,” he added.

Nearly 3,000 delegates are expected to attend the event. There are representatives from 29 countries, including European majors such as Germany, Poland and Italy.

Regional connectivity

The Chief Minister hard-sold the State as a hub for the entire region, including the neighbouring countries of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“West Bengal will give you access to the north-eastern states as well the neighbouring countries. Export to new markets like Thailand and the South-East Asian countries can also be explored from here,” Mamata Banerjee said.

Pankaj Munjal, CMD of Hero Motors Group, expressed the desire to take the idea of a regional export hub forward with the company keen on setting up a pedal and electric cycle making unit in the state. This unit can be leveraged to cater to neighbouring countries, Australia and South East Asian markets, he said.

Investment Proposals

The State is said to have secured nearly ₹14,000 crore in fresh investment commitments with home-grown industrialists Sanjiv Goenka and Purnendu Chatterjee leading the charge.

Goenka committed to ₹10,000-crore investments in FMCG over the “next few years.” Chatterjee’s TCG announced a fresh cap-ex of ₹1,000 crore at his two units at Haldia over the next 16 months.

Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice-Chairman, Bharti Enterprises, maintained that an investment of ₹3,000 crore to ₹4000 crore will be made in Bengal over the next three-to-four years.

Of the ₹3,500 crore that it committed last year, ₹1,500 crore had already been made.

Reaffirming commitments

GAIL reaffirmed its commitment to invest ₹6,500 crore in two phases – for supply of piped natural gas to the city and setting up of the Jagdishpur-Haldia (gas) pipeline project.

YK Modi’s Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd too reaffirmed his ₹6,800-crore commitment towards exploration of coal bed methane in the state over a 7-year period.