By Carl Joseph
While in Dubai attending a series of finance meetings, Prime Minister Gaston Browne established Antigua and Barbuda’s first ever economic office in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Prime Minister’s Office’s Chief of Staff, Lionel Hurst, explained that Browne made the move to “establish a presence in Dubai”.
Hurst made it clear that was just a first step towards establishing deeper diplomatic and economic relations with the country.
“When we name an ambassador to Dubai… then we’ll upgrade [the office] to an embassy but, at the moment, it is an office that does not enjoy all the protections offered under the Vienna Convention on foreign relations,” Hurst said.
Dubai is the UAE’s financial centre. The UAE’s economy is the second largest in the Middle East (after Saudi Arabia) with a gross domestic product of US$414 billion in 2018.
“We also have citizens of other countries who live and work in Dubai who have become citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. So, we have a continuing interest in what goes on in Dubai,” Hurst continued.
The UAE has been successfully diversifying its economy, particularly in Dubai, but still remains heavily reliant on revenues from petroleum and natural gas which continue to play a central role in its economy, especially in Abu Dhabi.
“Dubai is a mover and shaker of things in that part of the world and they have a tremendous impact on the rest of the world,” Hurst said.
Another chief influence on the PM’s push towards furthering relations in the UAE is that of the potential for increases in the Citizen by Investment Programme (CIP) applications from that region.
“It’s one of the best marketplaces for the CIP programme outside of China. And so what we are trying to do is to make the relationship sounder and have it yield the kind of returns that can be had from furthering the relationship between ourselves and Dubai,” Hurst added.
The chief of staff also reminded that, “we have had a few projects emanating from Dubai”.
One of those is the stalled Callaloo Cay development at Morris Bay in Old Road.
Prime Minister Browne, on Sunday, met with HE Mohammed Sultan AL Qadi, chairman of the Commercial Bank International (CBI) PSC of Dubai, along with several other board members of the bank.
Browne held what a release from his office termed as a “successful meeting on the recommencement of the Callaloo Cay project”.
The luxury development was the brainchild of Al Caribi Antigua Development Limited — a joint venture between Sheik Tariq Bin Faisal Al Qassimi, chairman of Emirates Investment Group, of Dubai and the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The release further stated that, “the project which was started by Sheik Tariq has now been replaced by the bank and will be completed in partnership with the government of Antigua and Barbuda”.
Speaking after the round of talks with the CBI bank, PM Browne said that he “welcomes this partnership and looks forward to the completion of the project”.
The country’s leader also held meetings with the Investment Corporation of Dubai.
Browne will continue a series of business meetings in Dubai to include a meeting with HE Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, an organisation dedicated to providing children of developing countries with access to quality primary education. Browne is also scheduled to meet with HE Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibane, Director General of the Ruler’s Court, Government of Dubai, a prime government body, before returning to Antigua and Barbuda on Wednesday.