Interview with the UAE’s Ambassador in Havana

Ambassador-Bader-Almatrooshi-embassy-HavanaAmbassador Bader Almatrooshi of the UAE Embassy of Havana speaks of the relationship between Cuba and the UAE. Courtesy: Embassy of the UAE.
 Cuba’s Opciones weekly magazine recently spoke with the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bader Almatrooshi, on the relationship which currently exists between Cuba and the UAE.

The following is a synopsis of that interview.

With the opening of the UAE embassy in Havana a little over a year ago, the relations between both countries have been fortified. In the original interview, Ambassador Bader Almatrooshi took a look at the relationship between the UAE and Cuba. He also discussed economic development and progress in the UAE.

Cuba is one of the valued commercial partners of the UAE. In 2015, bilateral exchange between the two nations reached $23,095,000. By the end of the first quarter of 2016, the figure stood at $9,100,000. The Ambassador is certain that those numbers will climb due to the strengthening of bonds between the Island and the UAE. The Ambassador believes the relationship will find new areas of cooperation and lead to further exchange visits to promote more investment.

Both countries recognize there are unexplored potential opportunities to work together in sectors such as economy, culture, and health. Efforts are underway to materialize these opportunities the diplomat said.

Ambassador Bader Almatrooshi emphasized that the relationship between the UAE and Cuba has always been based on mutual respect and support in the international arena. There have been important advancements in the relations particularly when the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, visited Havana in October 2015 to officially open the new Embassy of the UAE.

At that time, His Highness met with several Cuban officials, including the First Vice-president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, and Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX), Rodrigo Malmierca. On that occasion both governments signed two important agreements: one on air transportation and another on financing for the use of solar energy.

In 2015, Minister Malmierca reciprocated with a visit to the UAE where he met with a number of government officials and participated in the First UAE – Cuba Business Forum. The first Vice Minister of MINCEX , Antonio Carricarte Corona, headed the Cuban delegation and also attended the sixth edition of the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) held in Dubai, last April.

In November, the Minister of Economy, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri – accompanied by a large delegation – visited Havana to attend the second UAE – Cuba Business Forum.

Ambassador Bader Almatrooshi also spoke of Cuba’s Mariel Special Development Zone (ZED) which was created to promote economic growth in Cuba. The Ambassador intends to inform the business community on the possible options available to do business with Cuba. These options include prioritized sectors such as tourism, energy, products import and exports all of which the UAE possesses extensive experience.

The Ambassador also spoke to Opciones about recent developments in the UAE. Over the past few years, the UAE has achieved many successes on the road to progress, prosperity, and sustainable development in a relatively short period of time. The main driver of this success has been a leadership which is visionary.

The UAE and Cuba share many similarities in the sectors of education, healthcare and housing. Like Cuba, the UAE provides free education and healthcare to its citizens. Access to free education has resulted in increased literacy rates of over 90% of the population. Public sector education spending was increased by 57 % to reach $2.65 billion dollars annually.

Health sector spending was increased from 0.32 billion dollars to 1.04 billion. The funding resulted in more doctors, hospitals, health centers and clinics with the latest in cutting edge technology.

One of the top priorities of the UAE government is to invest in human capital. The government also deployed a housing Programme to benefit certain segments of the population.

Of note also is that the UAE ranks first in critical development indicators in categories such as the quality of public infrastructure, roads, maritime and aviation facilities, public safety and security, the rate of female enrolment in universities, government efficiency and trust in the government.

In spite of the global financial crisis and the resulting economic slowdown, as well as the upheaval and disorder that engulfed the region, the UAE has continued to demonstrate marked progress in all sectors over the last ten years. The economy doubled from a GDP of $180 billion dollars to $369 billion, an improvement which provided jobs and created considerable economic and commercial opportunities for citizens and residents.

Legislation and policies aimed to diversify the economy has protected the economy throughout the recent decline in oil prices, cushioning the economy against global economic slowdown. The UAE has moved away from oil dependency, a move which increased non-petroleum exports from $30 billion dollars to $163 billion over the years.

Over the past 10 years and as a result of open economic policies, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has seen a sharp increase from 48 billion to 111 billion dollars while banks’ total assets have increased from 233.6 billion dollars to 673 billion dollars.

The UAE has also become a world leader in the field of renewable energy. This can be witnessed in the zero carbon city of Masdar in Abu Dhabi and in the investment in many major solar energy projects. Masdar, a multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar investment in renewable and alternative energy and clean technology, has carried out many energy and renewable energy projects inside and outside the country. Masdar does this in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, which provides grants to countries for the implementation of projects in the solar, thermal and wind energy sectors.

Information Source: Interview published in the Cuban website Opciones. This is a synopsis and translation of that interview.  The interview was titled: Unexplored Potential Opportunities.

Author: The Editorial Board

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