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At Vibrant Gujarat, Bhutan, Macedonia PMs pitch own offers

Gandhinagar, Jan 12 In terms of investment, they had little or virtually nothing to offer – either to Gujarat or to India. But the prime ministers of two countries, Bhutan and Macedonia, shared space with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the seventh edition of the Vibrant Gujarat summit to pitch for investments for their countries.

Even though Modi dominated the proceedings, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski made all efforts to attract investment for their own countries.

“We have free trade agreements with most European countries. We can be the gateway to Europe for any business that is set up in Macedonia,” Gruevski said here.

“We have special tax concessions for companies setting up facilities in free economic zones. There is a tax holiday for 10 years,” he said on the sidelines of the summit.

Gruevski said a lot of companies from the US, Britain, Germany, Russia and other countries have set up units in Macedonia, a land-locked country in the central Balkan peninsula in southeast Europe with a GDP of over $22 billion. It declared independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991.

“We will soon be a member of the European Union,” the prime minister said.

For Bhutanese Prime Minister Tobgay, the visit to ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ was an “economic pilgrimage”.

“Vibrant Gujarat is a phenomenon. This summit is already the world’s leading platform for the exchange of ideas, innovation and knowledge. What is discussed here by business leaders, political leaders and thought leaders influences the politics and economies of entire countries, not just in South Asia, but across the world,” Tobgay said.

“This is how I see it: when Gujarat vibrates, its vibrations spread quickly through India to the rest of the world, and that includes my country in the mighty Himalayas,” he said.

He pitched for investment in Bhutan, a small country “tucked away in the Himalayas, and sandwiched between the world’s two biggest countries, India and China”.

“Bhutan is open for business. We have a workforce that is well-educated, we have clean energy that is very cheap, we have economic policies that are business-friendly, we have peace and stability, and, most importantly, we have free access to India’s huge market.

“Bhutan is open for business for businesses that are clean, green and sustainable. For that reason we welcome investments in renewable energy and hydropower, organic farming and tourism, and education and information technology,” Tobgay said.

The Bhutanese prime minister made it clear that the emphasis of the Bhutanese king and the government was on having ‘Gross National Happiness’.

“If you are interested in doing business with Gross National Happiness, then I am interested in meeting you here in Gujarat,” Tobgay told the gathering of top Indian and global industrialists, CEOs, business and corporate leaders.

With a GDP of barely $1.7 billion, Tobgay acknowledged that “many of the delegates in attendance here are worth more – are worth more individually – than the entire GDP of my country. In fact, some of you are worth many, many, many times more.”

He said investment in Bhutan would mean adhering to core values, sustainable development, ecological balance and preserving rich culture and heritage.

“I want to tempt you to visit my country to breathe our fresh air, to see our clear skies, to taste our clean water, to meet our friendly people, to enjoy our rich culture, to experience Gross National Happiness,” he said while appealing for investment in the Himalayan kingdom.

For both prime ministers, Vibrant Gujarat provided a big opportunity to connect with big names of industry, business and corporate world in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and ministers from Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Singapore and other countries.

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