Every Malayali entrepreneur in the Arabian Gulf worth his or her million bucks is right now eyeing an audience with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is all set to make his first visit to UAE in his official capacity.
John Brittas -the CM’s Media Advisor- is already in Dubai to do the requisite legwork in this regard.
There has always been a sizeable Malayali presence in the Gulf region with rough estimates varying from around 1.4 million to 2.5 million.
In 2013, the Department of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NORKA) and the Bureau of Economics and Statistics placed the count at 1.62 million, with the UAE accounting for the largest number (5,70,000), followed by Saudi Arabia.
Malayalis in the UAE number almost seven-fold than that of their American counterparts. But the recent nationalisation initiatives and volatile oil prices have led to drastic job cuts in the region, leaving them a concerned lot.
In an exclusive chat to The News Minute, Brittas minces no words: “The CM does not have the habit of indulging in publicity stunts. He does not make empty promises. He is one person who only says what he can do. He plans to engage with the business community in a two-hour interaction. They can ask him questions, and he will give them straight answers.”
The session with entrepreneurs is critical to the CM’s development agenda for Kerala, says Brittas.
“The bulk of the foreign remittances to Kerala come from the Gulf region. And yet, the funds have not been put to use productively. The CM shares a strong concern in this regard. He feels it is important to productively channelise the remittances for the state’s development.”
According to Brittas, Pinarayi plans to leverage his visit to instill confidence in the expatriate business community about the “seriousness, dedication and commitment” of the LDF government: “Whenever the expat community has reposed faith in the government, they have contributed lavishly. Projects such as the Nedumbasserry and Kannur airports are examples.”
Brittas feels that choosing the UAE for his first overseas visit as Chief Minister underlines the importance of the region to him -both as a person and as the CM.
“Over the past two decades, he has built a strong rapport among NRIs. Unlike others, he has visited even remote nooks of the region, including in Saudi Arabia.” The UAE visit -Brittas insists- can be termed as a home-coming for Vijayan with two public meetings that will host over 10,000 people planned in his welcome.
The topics lined up for discussion include plans for Air Kerala, insurance schemes, rehabilitation of the jobless, support for building homes, among others. There is also a buzz of a core engineering group intending to announce a multi-crore investment in Kerala.
The LDF government hopes to return the favour by creating pockets of excellence in sectors such as renewable energy, IT and tourism. Official sources say that Pinarayi hopes to create an environment in Kerala that helps young people meet their aspirations, with stress on quality education and job creation.