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8 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 7 March, 2019 11:04:57 PM

KSA, Bangladesh open new chapter in bilateral relations

KSA, Bangladesh open new chapter in bilateral relations
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, visiting KSA Minister for Commerce and Investment Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qasabi and Economy and Planning Minister Mohammad Bin Mazyed Al Twaijri oversee the deals being signed at the Prime Minister’s Office in the capital. Focus Bangla Photo

Bangladesh and the Kingdom Saudi Arabia (KSA) yesterday inked two agreements and four Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for different development projects in Bangladesh in connection with energy, industries and infrastructure, paving the path for future investments of up to 20 billion dollars by the Kingdom in Bangladesh. The deals were signed in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and visiting KSA minister for commerce and investment Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. KSA economy and planning minister Mohammad Bin Mazyed Al Twaijri witnessed the event at the Prime Minister’s Office.

An agreement on the construction of a 100-megawatt Solar IPP was inked by the Alfanar Company of Saudi Arabia and the Electric Generation Company Bangladesh Limited. Electric Generation Company managing director Arun Kumar Saha and Aslfanar Company vice-president (sales and marketing) Kahlid Bin Qabel Al Sulami signed the deal on behalf of their respective sides.  The other agreement was penned by the General Electric Manufacturing Company of Bangladesh and the Engineering Dimension of Saudi Arabia on the manufacture of transformers and electricity devices. General Electric managing

director Sultan Ahmed Bhuiyan and Engineering Dimension CEO Mohammad Nazib Al Hazi inked the deal for their respective companies.

A MoU on manpower export was signed by the BMET of Bangladesh and Al Maml Trading Estate of Saudi Arabia. BMET acting director general SK Rafikul Islam and Al Maml Trading Estate chairman inked the deal. Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation and Yusuf Al Raji Construction signed another MoU on setting up a urea formaldehyde-85 plant in Bangladesh. Industries secretary Md Abdul Halim and Saudi entrepreneur Yusuf Bin Abdullah Al Razi signed the deal.

Yet another MoU on establishing Saudi–Bangladesh Biomedical Engineering and Technology was penned by the Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) and Al Afaliq Group of Saudi Arabia. The industries secretary and Al Afaliq Group CEO Mohammed Abdulaziz S Alfaleq signed the deal.

The final MoU, signed between Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation and Riyadh Cable Group of Saudi Arabia, was on cable production. The industries secretary and Riyadh Cable Group CEO Mohamed Mustafa Mohamed Rafea inked the deal.

Earlier, the visiting delegation said they were keen to open a new chapter in Bangladesh to enhance communication, business and investment relations between the two nations for mutual benefits.

“We are here to support, work and explore opportunities. We're ready to open a dialogue and identify business opportunities between the two countries,” KSA commerce and investment minister Dr Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qasabi said yesterday.

While addressing a dialogue on ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia–Bangladesh Investment Cooperation’ organised by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) at Hotel Intercontinental, the KSA investment minister said: “I can assure you that a new chapter in the Saudi-Bangladesh relation is being established.”

Bangladesh finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal delivered the welcome address, while Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the Prime Minister, gave a presentation on the ‘Business Climate and Investment Opportunities in Bangladesh’.

Al Qasabi also invited Bangladesh to the next chapter of the dialogue in Saudi Arabia. “I would like to invite the business delegation as well as the government delegation to host a conference in Riyadh to explore business opportunities in Bangladesh, where we can create a Saudi-Bangladesh business council and explore these opportunities. We can market and promote the opportunities where the Saudi government can play a role,” he said.  

“I can assure you that a new chapter in the Saudi-Bangladesh relation is being established. I hope that this cooperation and meeting will be a productive one. I hope we could identify a specific roadmap,” he also said.

“We have set our Vision 2030 and Bangladesh has set Vision 2021 and 2041. This is a finishing line that we need to create a mutual interest that will benefit both nations,” he further said.

“I can assure you today that the directives we have received from the crown prince of KSA states that Bangladesh is truly a partner and an Asian tiger. A delegation of 52 members is just a testimony of the fact that we are serious about opening a new chapter here,” he added.

Congratulating the Government of Bangladesh, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Al Qasabi said: “Bangladesh is a new Asian tiger. It has been a great enabler and a partner of Saudi Arabia. Our Bangladeshi brothers have been helping in the development of Saudi Arabia over the last one decade.”

Recalling the Bangladeshi workers in the KSA, the Saudi minister said: “Bangladesh has sent around two million people to work in Saudi Arabia. It has been a true partner in developing industrial as well as commercial aspects of the KSA.”

About the visit, Al Qasabi said: “A dialogue is a two-way street. We have seriously started to build and enhance this relationship. If you look at our trade volume, it is still moderate, although it has enhanced over the last few years by a significant amount. However, it's still around USD 1.4 billion dollars and does not reflect our true relation and expression.

“So, we are here to explore opportunities, enhance dialogue, establish the communication highway and build relations with our counterparts in order to develop further,” he continued.

He also said they were honoured to be among the brothers and sisters of Bangladesh in their first visit and appreciated the warm welcome and great hospitality in Bangladesh.

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said 163 million citizens of Bangladesh were deeply honoured to have the KSA delegation. “This visit demonstrates the warmth and depth of the excellent and time-tested relationship between the two brotherly nations,” he added.

He also expressed his deepest appreciation to the custodian of the two holy mosques, king Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, and the crown prince, Muhammad Bin Salman, for organising the visit of the KSA delegation.

Recalling the bilateral meeting of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with King Faisal in Algiers in 1973 at the NAM Summit, Kamal said: “It was the foundation of the relationship between the two counties. Since then, our relations have expanded and consolidated.”

“Bangladesh received UDS 2.6 billion last year, sent by 2.8 million Bangladeshi citizens working in the KSA, which was almost 18 per cent of our total inward remittances,” he added.

He said the Bangladesh government was adopting a more investment-friendly business environment by providing infrastructure and policy support.

Drawing attention to the delegation, Kamal said, “All of you are iconic personalities having great minds and souls. You are here for a cause—the cause is serving humanity through the economic emancipation of all.”

Inviting the KSA delegation to invest in Bangladesh, Salman Fazlur Rahman, in his presentation, highlighted 10 reasons to invest here. About the first reason for investment, he said, Bangladesh was open to inward investment – foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows for 2018 (first three quarters) was USD 2.26 billion, which was 51.26 per cent higher compared to 2017 (first three quarters) across diversified industries despite a decline in total global FDI flow.

He also said Bangladesh was open to investment in all sectors reserved for arms and ammunitions, nuclear power and security printing and minting, afforestation and mechanised extraction within the boundary of reserved forest.

Giving an example of the status of agriculture, Rahman said that Bangladesh was the third in vegetable cultivation, fourth in rice production and seventh in potato production in the world. The domestic agro-processing sector in Bangladesh is currently valued at USD 2.2 billion. The average growth rate of the food processing industry is about 8 per cent and the average export growth rate in the last four years has been 37 per cent. At present, products are exported to 104 countries including the US, the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, Japan and Australia. “Agriculture is one of our success stories. We are self-sufficient to feed our population, though we are a small country,” he added.

About the second reason to invest here, Rahman said that Bangladesh had opportunities in the domestic market as there would be 17 key middle- and affluent-class (MAC) cities in Bangladesh by 2020 and 33 MAC cities by 2025. The domestic market is growing and the affluent middle class is expanding, he added.

Another reason is that Bangladesh has demographic dividends—the median age of the Bangladeshi citizen is 26.7 years, while 46.83 million people are aged less than 15 years. Moreover, there are 118 million hardworking, tech-friendly people in the working age group. Besides, Bangladesh has a homogenous culture, Rahman pointed out.

About the fourth reason for investment in Bangladesh, Rahman said Bangladesh was a gateway to India and China and connected important new regional markets (Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar) by providing access to a total of 2.9 billion consumers whose yearly spending was more than USD 8.35 trillion.

The fifth reason for investment was that Bangladesh had a preferential market access. It gets GSP facilities from 38 countries—28 countries of the European Union and 10 other countries such as Australia, Belarus, Canada, Liechtenstein, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and Turkey.

The sixth reason was  infrastructure support: Bangladesh has selected 66 economic zones selected and 100 economic zones will emerge the next 15 years.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Riyadh in October last year, a MoU was signed stating that 1,000 acres of land had been allocated for the Saudi investors for special economic zone in Mirsharai in Chattogram, Rahman said.

Besides, Bangladesh now has the Padma Bridge that will link the southwest part of the country to the northern and eastern regions. The Prime Minister had taken it as a challenge to build the bridge with the country’s own investment, Rahman observed.

Bangladesh also has energy diversification through the introduction of LNG, nuclear power, solar, wind, LPG, etc. All mega cities would be connected via the metro rail, elevated expressway and high speed express railway, he noted.

The other reasons for investment were the low cost of doing business, initiatives to foster competitiveness, one-stop service for investors, and the country’s stability.

On stability, Rahman said: “The Bangladesh government has created an enabling environment for the private sector to drive economic growth. We also have a stable political environment where there is multiparty democracy. Besides, the government has a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and drugs.”

Meanwhile, BIDA executive chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam told reporters: “This is the highest level of KSA delegation that has ever come here. There was an indication of this visit when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the KSA the last time and talked with the king and the crown prince.”

“We will discuss a number of projects during the meeting. There are project proposals involving USD 15–20 billion. Everything depends on how the matters are negotiated reasonably for mutual benefits,” he added. The KSA delegation left Dhaka yesterday after the inking of the deals and the MoUs.


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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.

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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