CARACAS: Fresh from his massive re-election victory, President Hugo Chavez has promised more social reforms and development to build a different Venezuela over his next six-year term.
He has reached out to the outside world and among the first to answer Chavez’s call in the early days of the latter’s challenging third presidential term will be Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who arrives here tomorrow.
The flamboyant Chavez, who amassed nearly 63% of the votes in the Dec 3 presidential election, knows what to expect as he has visited Kuala Lumpur three times, the latest being in September.
For Abdullah, this will be his first visit to this land of striking natural beauty since becoming Prime Minister in 2003.
And the timing of his quick reciprocal visit, besides Monday being the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, could not have been better.
“President Chavez has just been re-elected with a strong mandate on the back of his pledge to bring more development to Venezuela, which is one of the most highly-urbanised countries in Latin America,” says Malaysia External Trade Development (Matrade) chief executive officer Datuk Norharuddin Nordin, who is also here.
“The country’s economy is growing and diversifying steadily, and enjoying a windfall from high oil prices. There are opportunities aplenty and this is the time for our businessmen to set their sights here. Pak Lah is helping to pave the way.”
The signs are clear, with corporate figures from 20 major corporations accompanying Abdullah in the business delegation including Petronas, Pos Malaysia, Boustead Holdings, Iris Technology, Golden Hope and Ranhill.
Petroleum remains the major income earner for Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest crude exporter with its production of 3.7 million barrels per day, which is expected to reach a massive five million barrels by 2012.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok will have to closely follow up on the decisions made by Abdullah and Chavez during their talks at the Palace of Miraflores here on Monday.
Abdullah is also scheduled to take an aerial tour of the Orinoco Belt, which is said to hold more than 230 billion barrels of extra-heavy tar-like oil, the equivalent of 20% of current global proven reserves.
Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is already engaged in talks with Petronas on a joint venture in the Belt area.
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