THE new ambassador for the United Arab Emirates has pledged to open the gates so wealthy Arabs can invest billions into Portsmouth – and bring about lasting change.
In an exclusive interview with The News during a trip to the city, Sulaiman Al Mazroui vowed to do all he can to urge Middle Eastern entrepreneurs they are the key to transforming prospects.
There are definitely opportunities here for UAE businesses. It has the right population, the right location, it’s a great area in terms of tourism, as well as historical sites.UAE ambassador Sulaiman Al Mazroui
But His Excellency also challenged Portsmouth leaders to step up and do more to sell its natural beauty and ever-growing maritime quarter on the global stage – to attract the premier league of foreign investors.
And he said now was the perfect time for Portsmouth to reap major benefits – as the UAE and UK look to increase the flow of cash running between the two countries from £13bn to £20bn by 2020.
Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, who hosted Mr Al Mazroui’s visit, hammered home the message that Portsmouth needs money for a five-star hotel, lucrative shopping centre and world-class conference facilities.
Mr Mazroui said: ‘There are definitely opportunities here for UAE businesses.
‘It has the right population, the right location, it’s a great area in terms of tourism, as well as historical sites. My role is to further strengthen relations between the UAE and the UK as well as this region.
‘The UAE already has strong relations, particularly economically, and commercially, we £13bn worth of trade between the two countries. The UAE is open to all new business, from Scotland to Portsmouth. It seems like there are a lot of places that are good for investment here.
‘That will be conveyed back to the UAE. When UAE businessmen come to Portsmouth, they too will see the potential for investment.’
But in a challenge to leaders, he said: ‘What I would urge authorities here to do, is to participate in exhibitions, particularly those involved in tourism and real estate. That way you are creating more awareness of what you have here, so people from Japan and the US can see the opportunities. Portsmouth needs to push itself.’
The visit came after Mrs Drummond visited the UAE earlier this year to promote the city and lobby some of the world’s wealthiest to part with their cash. She said: ‘What we’ve got to do is find areas where the UAE want to invest in the city.
‘We need a shopping centre and a five-star hotel.’
Portsmouth Tory resources boss Cllr Lee Mason, who also oversees the city’s links with international countries, revealed ‘four to five’ different countries had shown an interest in bringing money in following the EU referendum.
He said: ‘We are very much open to the world.
‘We have a lot of interest from the Chinese government as well as the Arab community; we have a lot of students from there studying here in Portsmouth.
Mrs Drummond added: ‘I very much wanted to show him that Portsmouth is a thriving city with world-class attractions and industries, but there is still room for further investment, particularly in the northern quarter and in our hi-tech businesses.
‘This was a first visit but it was a positive visit, and I hope it will be the start of a constructive relationship between Portsmouth and the UAE.’