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19 March, 2017 12:50:12 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 19 March, 2017 12:59:14 AM

‘Things could have been much better’

HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN, back from Saudi Arabia
‘Things could have been much better’

It was Madinah bus terminal of Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO), the bus company that connects between various cities of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the time was moments before 2pm. Following the Johor prayers, five people with South Asian appearance sat on the floor in a corner making a circle. They placed some sheets on the floor and added thin polythene on the top of those. Then, one by one, they placed on it different types of food, appeared to be Bangladeshi, either brought from home or purchased from restaurants. They had their lunch together sharing each other’s food and talking. It was confirmed from their conversation that they were Bangladeshis.
When approached after the apparent satisfying lunch, they introduced themselves as Masud, Ayub, Jahangir, Mizan and Ashfaq hailing from five different districts of Bangladesh. They have been living in the oil-rich kingdom from 2 to 7 years.
Profession-wise, the jobs they do for living, leaving their family behind are not something they take pride in. All five shared their work experiences in the KSA, the largest source of Bangladeshi remittance, as well as the feeling of staying away from home.
“We are here, physically, but our souls are always in the country,” said Mizan with a long sigh. Four others nodded their heads in agreement.
In a nutshell, they state that they are well, but things could have been much better. All of them agreed that migration cost was too high and in comparison to that, the wages are not good.
“Workers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka get better wages than the Bangladeshis for same jobs,” one of them said and all of them put the blame on the government for its failure

to negotiate for good deals with the Saudi authorities.
“Our government does not negotiate well as the governments of other countries do,” said Ayub.
Same view was expressed by most of the Bangladeshi workers this correspondent met during a visit to Saudia Arabia from March 3 to March 7.
Jahangir, Masum and Monir, who work in Makkah, Ashraf at Jeddah airport and Khaleque at a service station on the Madinah-Makkah highway are of the opinion that it takes Bangladeshi workers a long time to earn the migration cost, which should be much lower.
Another important aspect, the Bangladeshi expatriates pointed out, is that one should not travel to Saudi Arabia or any other countries without having a detailed knowledge about the nature of the job and the exact wages.
They also said that people should come to the KSA after being skilled to earn more. When asked about the wages of Bangladeshi workers, Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Dhaka Abdullah HM Mutairi told this correspondent in an exclusive interview that the governments of the two countries sign the deals, but negotiations regarding wages and other things are done by the companies concerned.
But, he added, “Our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters are well in our country.”
A senior government official concerned admitted the fact that Bangladeshi workers are paid less than workers from other countries and the government is trying its best to address the issue.
“The unawareness and hurriedness among our people are also to blame for this. They appear to be desperate to fly at the earliest. And, some unscrupulous people take advantage to this desperation resulting in higher migration cost,” he said, adding that the migration cost has gone down in recent time as compared with few years back.
When contacted, Senior Vice President of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) MA Sobhan Bhuiyan said that things are now much better than before.
Earlier, people had to spend from Tk 8-12 lakh for going to Saudi Arabia and the minimum wages used to be between 350 and 400 Riyals a month, he claimed, adding that now one has to pay from Tk 3.5 to 4 lakh to undertake an employment in Saudi Arabia and nowadays hardly any person goes with a salary below 800 Riyals. “Yes, very few of our dishonest recruiting agencies still send people with a salary of 600 Riyals,” admitted Bhuiyan. “Let’s face the fact. Like India, Bangladesh is yet to be in a strong position to negotiate with the Saudis for higher salaries for its nationals,” he said. “We hope things for our workers in terms of wages will get better when the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Malaysia will start taking people from us. It’s all about demand and skill,” he added. 



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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