Kerala Chief Minister Pnarayi Vijayan during an exclusive interview with Gulf News in in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, yesterday (Wednesday) said the Indian government’s decision denying permission for his cabinet colleagues’ foreign visits to mobilise funds from NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) for the state’s reconstruction was least expected.

"We expected that the [Indian] Central Government would clear the tour programme of the ministers. However, the Centre chose to deny the clearance."

 — Pinarayi Vijayan | Kerala Chief Minister


“I am at a loss to understand the reasons behind it,” he told Gulf News in an interview here on the first day of his four-day visit to the UAE.

“We expected that the [Indian] Central Government would clear the tour programme of the ministers. However, the Centre chose to deny the clearance. Certainly, it would affect the fund-raising for the time being,” the chief minister said about the Centre’s decision that came out on Wednesday.

“We have to discuss the issue and make alternative arrangements to mobilise funds from abroad with the support of Members of Loka Kerala Sabha, [a global platform of Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) constituted by the state government],” he said.

Rs250b
Is the estimated loss in Kerala after the massive floods.

Vijayan had announced on October 3 that 17 of the 20 state ministers would visit various foreign nations, including in the Gulf, South East Asia, Europe and America, from October 17 to 21. However, the centre granted permission only for the chief minister’s foreign visit, denying his ministers permission.

He reached the UAE on Wednesday morning to seek support of the expatriate community in rebuilding the flood-hit state.

“We have launched a crowdfunding platform to mobilise sponsorship, big or small, from individuals, institutions and agencies. Anybody can go the portal (www.rebuild.kerala.gov.in) and support the rebuild plan.”

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with John Brittas, Managing Director, Malayalam Communications Ltd. (Kairali TV) in Abu Dhabi. Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Finalising projects

Asked about the offers already received from NRKs, he said some of them offered to take up projects like housing. “We are in the process of finalising them.”

About the total loss caused due to the floods, the chief minister said: “We are yet to complete the assessment process. As you know World Bank-ADB (Asian Development Bank) team assessed the loss of major sectors to the tune of Rs250 billion (Dh12.47 billion). They have not fully assessed the loss of all the sectors, for example, agriculture and trade. The loss would be more than Rs400 billion.”

Rs400b
Might be the final estimated loss, chief minister says.

Vijayan will present the reconstruction plans to business and community leaders in a series of meetings titled “Together with Kerala” in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

“When we meet them, we can explain the situation and present our rebuild proposals before them. I am sure the response would be tremendous.”

Vijayan said people of Kerala have an emotional relationship with the Gulf countries, particularly the UAE. “Hundreds of thousands of Malayalees working and living in Gulf countries. I must say NRKs have been supporting relief and rehabilitation works in a big way.”

He said the state cabinet that met on Tuesday approved the operational strategy and institutional framework for the ‘Rebuild Kerala Initiative’. As part of the institutional arrangement there is an advisory council comprising of experts in various fields. The leader of the opposition and union minister of tourism are also members of the council. The first meeting of the council would be held on October 22. This council will have an active role in the rebuilding. “Certainly NRKs and NRIs involvement will be there in the reconstruction process,” he said.

The chief minister said rebuilding the state would be a huge task. “We are making all efforts to mobilise funds for the rebuilding. As you are aware that state government will not be able to do it on its own. Even if we get substantial central aid, we have to mobilise resources from other sources. We have already decided to borrow funds from international agencies like World Bank and ADB (Asian Development Bank). We are also borrowing from Indian financial agencies and seeking support from NABARD (National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development) and HUDCO (Housing and Urban Development Corporation). Simultaneously, we are approaching Malayalee diaspora,” the chief minister said.

 

Chief Minster’s programmes in the UAE

— Vijayan addressed businessmen in the capital at a dinner meeting organised by the Indian Business and Professional Group (IBPG) on Wednesday evening.

— On Thursday evening, the chief minister will address a public meeting at the Indian Social and Cultural Centre (ISC) in the capital, which will be inaugurated by Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance.

— He will interact with prominent businessmen at an event organised by the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) in Dubai in the afternoon and address the Indian community at a public meeting at 8pm at Al Nasr Leisure Land in Dubai.

— On Saturday afternoon, the chief minister will meet prominent businessmen in Sharjah and attend a public gathering of Indian community members at 7pm at Sharjah Shooters’ Club.