West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to make her maiden foreign visit to Singapore in October on an invitation from the Singapore government and Changi Airports International (CAI), a leading promoter of the long-delayed airport city project at Andal near Durgapur.
Apart from discussions on some of operational bottlenecks, Banerjee could also finalise the deal leading to Changi’s increase of stake in Bengal Aerotropolis (BAPL), the special purpose vehicle (SPV) executing the project. CAI, which has invested as much as Rs 1000 crore in the project so far, has been looking to increase its stake for quite some time, and the state government has indicated in the first go CAI has expressed its intent to increase stake from 24 to 32.5 per cent.
The airport was christened Kazi Nazrul Islam airport and formally inaugurated in September last year, but it has met with several bottlenecks in the past few years.
One of the major issues was transfer of high-tension power transmission lines on the approach-road to the airport, which was necessary to get it operational. After month-long dilly-dallying, the government initiated work to transfer the transmission lines last month.
Now that the bottlenecks have been cleared, BAPL is expecting to get the airport operational by the end of this year. Also, Banerjee’s visit to Singapore is seen as a boost for the project as it will demonstrate the state government support for the aerotropolis project.
CAI chairman Kee Teck Koon met the chief minister to extend the invitation on Friday. Banerjee’s office has also received an invitation from Singapore foreign minister K Shanmugam in form of letter.
“The chief minister is yet take a final call. If she does travel, key business leaders from Kolkata, relevant ministers and department secretaries will be a part of the delegation,” state finance, commerce and industries minister Amit Mitra said.
Commenting on CAI chairman’s meet with Benerjee, BAPL said, there was discussion on “ways in which Changi can bring in fresh investments exploring new business possibilities from Singapore into its aerotropolis project in Bengal and thereby participate in the state’s industrial resurgence”.