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It has been a busy few months for me on several fronts. I have devoted a lot of time and energy to a major refurbish- ment of Le Raj and I hope those of you who come to visit will be impressed with the outcome! It is important not to stand still and it is time for Le Raj to enter a new era. I believe we have to continually aim for higher standards - of food and interior design - if we are to compete in our industry.

I was also fortunate to receive an Asian Award at the House of Lords on July 18th. This was a great honour and I am grateful to Dominic Grieve MP for taking time out of what must be a hectic schedule as a new minister in the coalition government to attend and present me with the award.

There was also an opportunity to attend the launch of the private Bangladeshi bank, Prime Bank, in the UK. I am sure they will provide useful support to our industry and community at a time when getting access to finance from some established High Street banks is proving hard to achieve.

Then there was the Camden Mela, where there was a great atmosphere and much to enjoy and learn about. Guest artist Mac summed it up when he said: “It does feel good to be in the fold of a lot of wonderful and exuberant people in the UK .”

Of course, work on the next British

Curry Awards is also gathering pace. The last date for nominations for the event, which takes place on 21st November, is September 1st. So please get yours in as soon as possible.

As I write this, the month of holy Ramadan has just started. This will be a demanding time for the many Bangladeshis working in spice restau- rants, as the need to get ready for ser- vice leaves hardly any time for a cool and quiet iftar. May Allah accept their fasting.

The one month long world cup foot- ball in South Africa kept the whole world glued to the TV but it drasti- cally affected restaurant business in the UK. This was perhaps the biggest downturn we have seen in many years and was compounded by the extremely hot spell, which kept people out of res- taurants and in their gardens enjoying BBQs. Hopefully the timings of matches in four years time when the World Cup is in Brazil will be better for us.

I must make mention of the Bangladesh cricket team, which although still in its infancy has beaten all the countries, including the big guns like Australia, India, Pakistan and South Africa. Only England remained unbeaten but this record was ended when Bangladesh beat England for the first time in July. The Bangladesh Tigers, as they are fondly called, certainly made us proud.

Finally I would like to congratulate the new coalition government, which has made a good start. The cap on immigration announced by the pres- ent government seems to be the most appropriate and if we need one chef, we should be able to bring in one chef. It should prevent a glut and address a cause of resentment. The high number of student visas is a cause for concern though and is something that needs to be tackled so that only genuine stu- dents get to enter the country. Student visas should not act as a back door route for immigration.

However, we will have to wait and see how this government really performs. Spice restaurants have a shortage of certain staff and we need assistance to address this issue. Governments in the past have promised and not delivered. Let us hope this one is different.

Enam Ali MBE-FIH

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