Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia marching ahead with shared visions & partnership

Both nations working toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030


By Golam Moshi and

Md. Nazrul Islam, PhD

Bismillaher Rahmaner Rahim

At the outset, we would like to convey our 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 people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this very auspicious occasion of the National Day of the Kingdom.

Bangladesh has been enjoying excellent relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for many years, with advancement of new partnerships in mutually interested areas such as trade, investment, education, ICT, manpower etc. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and people of Bangladesh consider Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the government of Saudi Arabia as a true, trusted and tested friend always and regard them as the leader of Muslim Ummah.

We deeply appreciate the visionary and dynamic role of the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in his relentless efforts in uplifting the Saudi economy, society and people through pragmatic reform measures with advancement of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, under the wise and dynamic leadership of King Salman.

We are happy and proud to inform the readers that this year in March the United Nations declared that Bangladesh has met the graduation criteria from the LDC (Lower Developing Country) category to Developing Country. This could be achieved due to the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as under her able leadership, for nearly a decade, Bangladesh has followed pragmatic development strategies, which resulted in inclusive economic growth, structural transformation and remarkable social progress.

It is pertinent to note that Bangladesh met all three criteria for graduation from LDC, its per capita GNI (Gross National Income) is $1,610 whereas UN threshold was $1,230, the HAI (Human Asset Index) is 72.9 whereas threshold was 66 and EVI (Economic Vulnerability Index) is 24.8 whereas threshold was 32. Given this backdrop, Bangladesh is now emerging an important country where there are plenty of opportunities in trade and investment.

Bangladesh is marching ahead with a significant growth rate of 7.86 this year, being the highest ever in Bangladesh, with business-friendly environment and competitive cost structure that can give 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, shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, etc. in Bangladesh.

These all were possible due to visionary statesmanship of Bangladesh Prime Minister with her special 10 initiatives — one house one farm and rural savings bank, sheltering project, digital Bangladesh, education assistance program, women empowerment, electricity to every household, community clinic and mental health, social safety net program, investment expansion, and environment protection.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undertook three official visits recently to the Kingdom, first one in June 2016 for bilateral meeting, second one in May 2017 to attend Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh and the recent one in April this year to attend Gulf Shield-1 Military exercise. All these visits created a new dimension of our bilateral relations. Saudi leadership lauded the role of Bangladesh in maintaining peace and stability through UN peacekeeping operations. Bangladesh always stands ready to support the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a member of ‘Islamic Alliance’ to fight against terrorism and violent extremism. The Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated firm commitment towards ‘zero tolerance’ to this menace.

Both the countries increasingly recognize the 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 July 2018, Bangladesh exports to KSA are around $350 million whereas Bangladesh import from KSA stands at around $750 million. During the visit of Prime Minister Hasina, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) organized a business session where leading Saudi businessmen took part as well as ten leading Bangladesh businessmen, who were 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. At the call of the Prime Minister, Economic Adviser of the Royal court expressed keen interest to invest in Bangladesh through their Public Investment Fund (PIF) in ‘commercially viable projects’.

As a follow up to the invitation of Bangladesh Prime Minister, a 21-member high-powered Saudi business delegation visited Bangladesh from Dec. 4-7 2017, when they had very fruitful interactive sessions with their Bangladeshi counterparts as well as meetings with Finance Minister and Commerce Minister of Bangladesh. In the coming days, we are expecting a number of interactions between two business communities for expanding ties in trade and investment to realize the Visions of both nations in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Bangladesh Prime Minister inaugurated the 45th session of OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Dhaka on May 2018. Bangladesh, as chair of OIC CFM, expects to actively engage in activities for welfare of the Muslim world through the revitalized OIC.

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.

Recently the government of Saudi Arabia has opened up investment opportunities for Bangladeshi entrepreneurs who can either invest solely or with Saudi partnership as Joint Venture projects in different areas such as aquaculture and fisheries, construction, human resources training, tourism and many more areas. Recently the Governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) — the Saudi Invest expressed his willingness to support Bangladeshi investors coming to the Kingdom. SAGIA offers advice and services to support interested parties from the initial planning stage through to after care.

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 October 2018, the Embassy would be commence its services there.

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 cooperation in all areas, particularly in trade and investment.

Bangladesh’s geo-strategic location in the global market with USA, EU duty free access and some of the key global value chains, provides a significant demand for quality infrastructure where Saudi Arabia may consider investing. Both countries should opt for transformation of respective economies for the bright future of the peoples. Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia are actively pursuing to have collaboration and cooperation in different areas with shared visions and partnership in achieving SDGs by 2030.

Moshi is the Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia & Islam is Deputy Chief of Mission, Bangladesh Embassy Riyadh