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SVG may soon have diplomatic presence in Dubai – PM

SVG may soon have diplomatic presence in Dubai – PM

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St Vincent and the Grenadines will soon establish an ambassadorial presence in Dubai, paving the way for a diplomatic relationship that is expected to bring a number of economic stimulating projects to these shores.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who returned from a trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and London last Sunday said that he held meetings with a number of high-ranking government officials in Dubai,{{more}} who agreed that St Vincent and the Grenadines should establish a diplomatic presence there.

Speaking at Cabinet Room on Monday, Gonsalves said that Dubai has provided a building for CARICOM countries to establish a permanent diplomatic presence and no one has taken up the offer, something that this Government will pursue over the next few months.

Justifying this position, Gonsalves said that when one opens relations with countries that “are not in the range of our compass,” persons are always curious to know what the country is about.

He said that in this case, Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which consists of seven Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain). Dubai is very wealthy because of its oil reserves, which provide 30 per cent of GDP and according to Gonsalves, the country has diversified and is involved in tourism, banking, finance and shipping, among other things.

He added also that their airport is the busiest airport in the world, while the country sees a huge number of cruise ships.

“It has taken the Caribbean quite a while to interface with those countries and we are in the early phases, but we must explore them in practical ways, so we are putting forward agreements to have presence and form a basis for relationships,” said the Prime Minister on Monday.

While on this trip, Gonsalves signed a loan agreement with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). The loan agreement, signed by Mohamed Saif Al Suwaidi, ADFD director general and Gonsalves, is for US$15 million that will be used to help set up a geothermal power station here.

The project is being funded as part of the US$350 million ADFD/ International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) project facility, set up in 2012 to provide concessional financing for renewable energy projects in developing countries affiliated to IRENA.

Gonsalves on Monday said that this loan has a two per cent interest rate that has been stretched out over a period of 20 years, with a five-year grace period, “cheap money and part of our contribution to the project.”

The Prime Minister said that while overseas, he also discussed the prospects of additional monies for the project and other work, as promises were made by the Unity Labour Party administration in the party’s manifesto and “when promises are made, we have to work to put promises into effect.”

Among the projects being considered are the port development project (Rose Place) and a modern cruise ship facility.

The trip also saw the Prime Minister holding discussions with Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the president of the Department of Civil Aviation in Dubai, CEO and chair of The Emirates Group and chair of Dubai World, as well as other officials, to look at a number of investment possibilities and areas of cooperation.

He noted that soon, three agreements will be signed: one for investment protection, civil aviation and a double taxation agreement, drafts of which are being looked over here by State administrative staff.

Gonsalves said that officials are providing advice and he does not see any difficulties.

Also, he revealed that Dubai has agreed to make a contribution on an annual basis to one of the components of the Zero Hunger Trust Fund, something that will be addressed in the 2016 Budget, which will be delivered on February 22.

He said that while in Dubai, he presented a proposal on the Zero Hunger Trust Fund that will not only help to strengthen the social safety net, but address self-sustaining activities in education, job creation and support for small business for indigent persons.

The Prime Minister noted that the Government is hoping that by 2020, no man, woman or child would go to bed hungry, as on September 17, 2015, they signed on to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to eradicate, across the globe, hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. He said that he believes that because of the work the Government has done in reducing indigence and undernourishment, we can achieve this by 2020.

“We have a draft plan to go to zero hunger, which would be one of the major issues which I would address in the budget,” said the Prime Minister.

Meetings were also held with UK based investors on air transport and tourism investment and the Prime Minister also held discussions with Andrea Pignataro, one of the investors in Canouan.

He revealed that these discussions are related to certain physical infrastructure development projects in Canouan that would see, over a five-year period, some US$20 to US$25 million for further development on the port, secondary school and other facilities on Canouan.(LC)

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