Kolkata: There is more than one reason why the two-day Bengal Global Summit 2016 that begins on Friday is crucial for West Bengal.
One, it hopes to transform West Bengal's image into that of a "new business ready" state. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is hoping to draw huge investment commitments from both domestic and international industry captains during the two-day summit. West Bengal is in dire need of big ticket projects in order to ensure jobs for a large number of unemployed youth and the government knows it well.
Second, the summit comes just months ahead of the crucial Assembly polls in the state. The Mamata-led Trinamool Congress wants to dispel the state's business-unfriendly perception and is leaving no stone unturned to showcase the event in a grand manner.
Third, heads of India Inc's big guns like the Tatas, Birlas and the Ambanis - regulars at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Meet - have so far given the Bengal summit a miss.
A turn of fate on these factors will be crucial for the economic health of the state as well as the political fortunes of the Mamata-led TMC. Trade unionism and a deteriorating work culture in the state have been responsible for a flight of capital from West Bengal and its bleak industrial scenario. While the erstwhile Left Front government has largely been blamed for the decline, the TMC government under Mamata's rule hasn't really helped the scenario.
Mamata's hands-off policy on acquiring land for industries, and widespread allegations of thriving extortion rackets have turned away prospective investors.Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani was the only prominent face attending Banerjee's investment meet in Mumbai in 2013.
Speculation is rife that he may be the star attraction in the upcoming summit as well.
State Finance Minister Amit Mitra who was camping in Mumbai to woo the country's top industry mandarins, asserted the investment commitments in the coming summit would surpass last year's figure of Rs 2.43 lakh crore.
"We will surpass last year's investment commitments of Rs 2.43 lakh crore. Besides India Inc., you will see a lot of interest from foreign investors," said Mitra, while not disclosing names of industrialists expected to be present.
In the run-up to the summit, the Bengal government had organised an investment road show in New Delhi in September.
Business delegates from a host of countries including the US, Britain, Japan, China, South Korea among others would participate in the summit that focuses on emerging areas like start-ups, design, intelligent cities, IT/ITes, financial hub and industrial infrastructure.
Besides Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari are expected to be present at the gala event.
Bangladesh commerce minister Tofail Ahmed and British Minister of State for Employment Priti Patel are also scheduled to attend the summit.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad have also been invited by Banerjee. Kejriwal would be present at the inauguration ceremony, according to official sources.
With the opposition targeting her government over the poor industrial scenario and flight of capital from the state, Banerjee has been widely publicising the event inviting investors to "ride on the growth".
Claiming that the state has outperformed the country on several economic parameters, Banerjee has been calling Bengal as "the destination for industries today".
The event would include plenary sessions addressed by national and international entrepreneurs, sectoral breakaway sessions and business to business (B2B) and government-to-Business (G2B) interactions along with expositions and exhibitions.
(With IANS inputs)