India Donates Ambulances to Benin, Becomes Largest Foreign Market

Cotonou (Benin), March 16 (IANS) India has donated 60 ambulances to Benin in an effort to supplement efforts at univeral coverage of healthcare among its nine million population. It has also become the largest foreign market for exports from this west African nation.

India's bilateral trade with Benin is expected to top $500 million in the fiscal ending March 31 with the latter enjoying a surplus, Indian Ambassador to Benin Mahesh Sachdev said.

"It is hardly a coincidence that according to reliable data, last year India became the largest foreign market for Benin, taking over 14 percent of your exports," Sachdev said at an event where he donated 60 ambulances to Benin on behalf of India.

Since India strongly believes fair trade is an effective way to stimulate and sustain economic growth, the Indian government two years ago decided to offer Benin duty-free and quota-free access to most of its exports to the vast Indian market, he said.

"These ambulances redeem an offer of $1 million as grant-in-aid to Benin's health sector made to the President of Benin, Dr. Boni Yayi, by our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on March 3, 2009," he said.

"These ambulances will extend the precious gift of basic and mobile healthcare to the needy and vulnerable. Judicious deployment of these sturdy and durable Tata ambulances among Benin's 77 communes will enable near universal coverage of healthcare," Sachdev said.

He said they will also serve the president's promise of extending free caesarean operations to expecting women.

India, he said, has also supplied locomotives to Benin as well as assisted in the establishment of six food processing plants, apart from giving buses and computers for higher education and tractors for the farm sector.

"We are working with Benin's authorities to set up an IT centre and an incubation centre as other gifts from India. Separately, an India-funded rural electrification project is bringing power to a large number of villages in Benin," Sachdev said.

At the Feb 18-19 conference of least developed countries in New Delhi, the Indian government had offered a 500-million dollar credit line and more training fellowships, among a slew of other steps, and Sachdev hoped Benin would take advantage of these offers, he added.



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Title: India Donates Ambulances to Benin, Becomes Largest Foreign Market

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