Bangladesh values partnership with KSA for a bright future for both nations


Golam Moshi

Bismillaher Rahmaner Rahim

AT the outset, I would like to convey my heartfelt congratulations and deep gratitude to Custodian of the Two holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this very auspicious occasion of the National Day of the Kingdom.

Bangladesh has excellent relations with Saudi Arabia for many years, with the emergence of newer engagements in trade and investment. The people of Bangladesh consider King Salman and the government of Saudi Arabia as a true and tested friend always and regard as the leader of Muslim Ummah being Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Islam. We applaud the visionary role of the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, in his extraordinary efforts in uplifting the Saudi economy including formulation of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, under the wise and dynamic leadership of King Salman.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undertook two official visits recently to the Kingdom, first one in June 2016 for bilateral meeting and second one in May 2017 to attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh. Both visits created a new dimension of our bilateral relations. King Salman termed “Bangladesh as a top Islamic country in respect of its relationship” during the meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister in June 2016. King Salman also lauded the role of Bangladesh in maintaining peace and stability through UN peacekeeping operations.

Bangladesh prime minister attended the Riyadh Summit to express solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a member of ‘Islamic Alliance’ to fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Sheikh Hasina reiterated firm commitment towards ‘zero tolerance’ to this menace and conveyed her readiness to support the Kingdom in this endeavor.

Bangladesh is now a role model for developing world in poverty reduction, achieving success in health and education, fighting climate change with UN accolade and a major UN troops contributor for peacekeeping operations around the world. Bangladesh is maintaining a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards the menace of terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations. Bangladesh is second fastest growing economy in the world (in 2016) with more than 7% growth. Bangladesh is now well regarded by international community with excellent relations with important countries of the world including Saudi Arabia.

Both the countries increasingly recognize mutually beneficial potential to expand bilateral economic cooperation across a range of areas. Trade between the two nations has increased significantly in the recent years though at a modest level as yet. By 2016, Bangladesh exports to KSA were around $250 million whereas Bangladesh import from KSA stood at around $ 650 million.

During the visit of Prime Minister Hasina the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) organized a business session where leading Saudi businessmen took part as well as ten leading Bangladesh businessmen, accompanying the prime minister, were present. In the business session Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for more investment and exploring business opportunities in Bangladesh. She also offered a special economic zone out of 100 special economic zones to Saudi investors. The economic adviser of the Royal Court expressed keen interest to invest in Bangladesh through their Public Investment Fund (PIF) in ‘commercially viable projects’. Under the auspices of Crown Prince Muhammad the first ever ‘Future Investment Initiative’ forum is going to be held in Riyadh on Oct. 24-26. This important event will play a critical role in promoting mutual investment and businesses between Saudi Arabia and countries of the world. Potential investors and businesses from Bangladesh are expected to take part. We are happy to note that a Saudi business delegation is set to undertake a visit to Bangladesh in early December this year to have interactive sessions with their Bangladeshi counterparts.

Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce, government of Bangladesh is organizing the 23rd Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2018 scheduled to be held from Jan. 1-31 in Dhaka. The event will provide an immense opportunity for both buyers and sellers to establish new business contacts and to display their exportable items where Saudi Export Development Authority can lead to participate along with exporting companies such as SABIC, Maaden etc.

Bangladesh is a winning combination of competitive market, business-friendly environment and competitive cost structure that can give you best returns. It is an ideal destination for Saudi entrepreneurs as it has a very dynamic young talented Muslim population (almost 90% population is Muslim) with attractive incentives. Potential investors may explore enormous potentialities in investment opportunities in different sectors, such as tourism industry, IT, ship-building, pharmaceuticals, etc. in Bangladesh.

For several decades, Bangladesh has been meeting the need of workers in several work streams in the Saudi labor market. The Bangladeshi migrant community has established their credentials in a longer term; and working with considerable appreciation of the Saudi peoples. In the process, they are also a part of contemporary Saudi economic growth. As of date, more than one and a half million Bangladeshi professionals and workers are living in KSA, spread across the Kingdom. Many of them have also moved along as entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.

In recent meetings between Bangladesh and Saudi officials it was agreed to stress upon on the institutions, curricula, related facilities, etc. in Bangladesh vis-à-vis academic and professional qualifications while proceeding on future recruitment of Bangladeshi workers including professionals. It is a timely initiative by both the governments to have a transparent and robust recruitment mechanism for lowering migration cost.

Given this backdrop of enhancement of bilateral engagements, the government of Bangladesh under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken pragmatic measures to build its own Chancery Complex of the Embassy of Bangladesh in Riyadh (at Diplomatic Quarters), and it is expected that by June 2018, the Embassy would be shifted there. It is also encouraging to note that the Embassy has launched the modernized consular services (MRP renewal and visa issuance) through Saudi Post in Riyadh and eastern region, and by Oct. 1, all are requested to visit the designated Saudi Post offices to get the services. This is also part of the movement of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision of the government of Bangladesh making client services easily accessible to all expatriates Bangladesh nationals in Saudi Arabia.

As we know that Saudi Arabia is vigorously pursuing the Saudi Vision 2030 which offers Bangladesh to look at new areas of engagements in all areas such as manpower, trade, investment, education, agriculture etc. Similarly, Bangladesh’s Vision 2021 to become a Middle Income Country and the Vision 2041 to attain the status of a developed country warrants Bangladesh to work closely with the Kingdom towards fast-growing trade and economic cooperation. Bangladesh’s place in the global market (such as USA, EU with duty free access) and some of the key global value chains, there is a significant demand for quality infrastructure where Saudi Arabia may consider to invest.

Now is a time when both countries should opt for transformation of respective economies for the bright future of the peoples. We can expand our engagements in trade, finance, investment, education, agriculture, defense through new ways and modalities. Bangladesh is ready to cooperate and participate in the Vision-2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will be beneficial for the people of both the brotherly countries and the Muslim Ummah.

— The writer is Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia