Gopee-Scoon: Jindal may bring foreign investment to Trinidad and Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon at a media conference at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain on June 26. – Faith Ayoung

Minister of Trade Paula Gopee-Scoon has defended the Prime Minister and well-known Indian businessman and political figure, Naveen Jindal, describing the controversy surrounding his visit to the Prime Minister as “hullabaloo.”

Speaking during a media conference introducing several delegates from the Haryana State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation (Hafed), Gopee-Scoon said the Opposition was seeking to make mayhem over Jindal’s visit, when he could be pivotal in bringing foreign direct investment to Trinidad and Tobago.

“It tells you that instead of welcoming people into our country, the Opposition is seeking to destroy,” she said.

“The Jindal family… they are business people of the highest order. Mr Jindal was also involved in politics… these are people of high esteem, and we really want to speak to the good of them.”

According to a biography on, Naveen Jindal, 54, is the youngest son of industrialist Om Prakash Jindal, who commissioned a pipe unit, Jindal India Ltd in 1964, then, in 1969 commissioned a large factory under the name Jindal Strips Ltd.

Jindal, a native of Haryana, is the chairman of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. He is known for his advocacy for women empowerment, and in 2009 founded OP Jindal Global University, a non-profit, multi-disciplinary and research oriented university in memory of his father.

In 2006 he was recognised by the World Economic Forum, when he was ranked among the top 25 Indians on its annual list of 250 global young leaders.

He also had a significant political career representing the Kurukshetra constituency in Haryana in the Lok Sabha (lower house) for two terms, spanning from 2004-2014. Earlier this month he was re-elected as an MP in Kurukshetra under President Modi’s Indian People’s Party.

Jindal was charged in 2013 by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under allegations of cheating and graft in a probe against the improper allocation of coal mines. He was booked for what the CBI claims were kickbacks paid to him for being granted mining rights for coal.

The charges according to a 2013 Forbes report came after investigations in 2012 revealed that 155 coal acreages were allocated without auction, resulting in windfall gains. Jindial Steel and Power was among companies named as having secured benefits estimated at over US$4 billion.

Still, Gopee-Scoon said in relation to the charges that legal challenges were a part of the nature of business.

“Now and of course in business you would have challenges – legal challenges – but that’s the nature of business,” she said. “You enter into contractual arrangements, drafting arrangements, and not necessarily all smooth…

“So therefore, to assign that level of attention on one minor issue is really a wonder to us.”

High Commissioner of TT to the Republic of India Dr Roger Gopaul said the Prime Minister’s visit to India in May was an effort to engage with the business community at large, reaching out to a variety of sectors in which TT could invite foreign direct investment.

“The Prime Minister has been exceedingly transparent and has worked through and with InvesTT and the High Commissioner of TT,” he said. “Today we have with us not just simply the private sector, but representatives of the government of the state of Haryana here in TT as a direct result of our Prime Minister’s visit to India, which speaks volumes in terms of the relationship between India and TT.”

Gopee-Scoon said the ministry was treated to a presentation on the structure of Hafed by chairman, Haryana state co-operative Kailash Chander and general managers Arun Ahuja and Anuj Tyagi.

She explained that Hafed had about 17 district offices in the state of Haryana, which encompassed about 19 mills and processing units which include mustard seed oil mills, sugar mills, pesticide refineries and rice mills.

“We deal with multi commodity types and we are the one of the largest state procuring agencies and developing latency largest warehousing agencies. We look after the preservation and maintenance of 7 million metric tonnes of food grains,” said Ahuja.

Advisor to the Prime Minister Dr John Alleyne said the team came to TT in order to hold discussions to assist with boosting the agricultural sector.

“As we know TT is on the verge of diversification with agriculture being one of the major segments for development. So it is in that contents and that our team from Haryana came to visit TT as part of strengthening the development of the agricultural sector,” Alleyne said.

HAFED is the largest apex co-operative federation of the Haryana state. Established in 1966, Hafed plays a leading role in serving farmers of the state as well as customers in India and overseas through the provision of safe and quality products.