Madhya Pradesh seeks Singapore expertise

Madhya Pradesh seeks Singapore expertise
ESM Goh Chok Tong being welcomed by Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum staff in state capital Bhopal. Mr Goh toured the museum, which showcases the art and culture of the state's indigenous tribes. The tribes make up 20 per cent of its population.

THE Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan, sought Singapore's help to set up a vocational training centre and develop industrial townships during a meeting with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

Mr Goh is the first top leader from Singapore to visit the state, the last stop of his fiveday trip to India.

Mr Chouhan said Madhya Pradesh could benefit from Singapore's expertise in areas such as urban management, vocational training and tourism, including creating a resort similar to Sentosa.

"We will try to see how we can help," Mr Goh told the three-term chief minister, who is from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, "but let's take it step by step."

Officials from Madhya Pradesh will travel to Singapore to work out areas where cooperation is possible.

India's central state, which has a population of 75 million, was once known as a Bimaru state, an acronym for the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The name was also a play on "bimar", which means sick in Hindi. The states had lagged behind the rest of India in development and had high poverty levels.

Today, Madhya Pradesh is one of India's fastest-growing states, enjoying double-digit growth mainly due to fast-paced agriculture growth. While it is seen as an emerging state for investments, industrial activity is still low.

Mr Chouhan is working to attract foreign investors to the state, besides pushing the manufacturing sector and creating jobs.

An investors' meeting is planned for next month with Singapore as one of the partner countries.

"Madhya Pradesh was an unknown state four to five years ago outside of India. Today there is progress... and opportunities," he said in his presentation on the state to the Singapore delegation.

Mr Goh's trip was aimed primarily at touching base with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office following a landslide election victory in May.

Mr Goh met Mr Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday to, among other things, explore new areas of cooperation for both countries.

Earlier, in Hyderabad, he had separate meetings with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana, India's newest and 29th state.

Said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee: "We need to get a feel of the direction India is heading… We hope it plays a significant role in Asia. There are lots of opportunities for cooperation and economic development that will be fruitful for both Singapore and India."

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