Saudi delegation ‘serious’ about starting new chapter with Bangladesh

The chief of the visiting Saudi Arabian delegation has said that they have arrived in Bangladesh with the aim of starting “a new chapter” between the two countries.

Referring to the 52-strong Saudi delegation – the first-ever to visit Bangladesh – Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qosaibi, the Saudi minister for commerce and investment, said:  “The magnitude of our delegation is just a testimony that we are serious to open a new chapter and to enhance our communication and dialogue and enhance business relations between the two countries.”

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has hailed Bangladesh as “a true Asian Tiger”, the minister added.

The delegation included Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed bin Mezyed Altwaijri, representatives of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and 17 top business groups.

Thursday’s day-long visit will follow the signing of a number of deals between the countries as Bangladesh expects investments worth $15 billion across a number of sectors ranging from energy to health to aviation.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, and Private Industry and Investment Adviser to Prime Minister Salman F Rahman also spoke at the opening of the dialogue.

The Saudi commerce minister said: “I assure you we are here to support, work, listen, and explore opportunities. We are here to open dialogue and invite you for the next chapter of dialogue in Riyadh and identity match-making partners with B2B, G2G and B2G.”

He congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on her achievements and said: “We believe in Bangladesh and Bangladesh has been a great enabler and partner of Saudi Arabia”.

He referred to more than two million workers in Saudi Arabia and said as a partner, they are helping the building of the kingdom.

“Fact on the ground is that there is a new Saudi Arabia. Fact on the ground is that there is a new Bangladesh. Fact on the ground that dialogue is a two-way street and we have started seriously to build and enhance this relation because if you look at our trade volume, it is still low although it has increased significantly in recent years,” he said.

But the $1.4 billion in bilateral trade represents a very moderate figure and does not reflect the true relations and aspirations of these two nations, he added.

“Our presence today is to make sure to explore opportunities, to enhance dialogue, to bridge bonds where our counterparts B2B, B2G, G2G come up with specific opportunities we can really take it further.”

“We need to identify specific opportunities. We can hold such an event in Riyadh. Idea is we need to look after this meeting in terms of what is going to be done, what is going to happen,” he said. The minister also proposed to form a Bangladesh-Saudi Arabia Business Council.

“We have set our vision to 2030. Bangladesh set its vision to 2021, and 2041. At the end of the day, this vision is a finish line we need both to work towards and create mutual interests that benefit each other.”

Saudi Arabia is signing investment deals in South Asian countries, which were marked by the Crown Prince’s visits to Pakistan, India and China.

Bangladesh Ambassador to Sudi Arabia Golam Moshi told a media briefing on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s investments in the US and Europe have reached its peak.

“Now they are looking to the East and Bangladesh is a perfect destination for that.”

Bangladesh’s relations with Saudi Arabia took a new turn in the last three-and-a-half years during which, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made four official state visits.

Both countries also signed a defence cooperation deal in which Bangladesh will help Saudi Arabia in their efforts to clear landmines along the Yemen border.

The projects Bangladesh have proposed include the construction of 100MW solar-hybrid power systems and floating solar in Feni, manufacture of electrical items in Chattogram, production of chemical urea-formaldehyde in Bangladesh, establishment of a Saudi-Bangladesh Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, a joint venture in food-bakery goods, and high-speed railway linking Dhaka and Chattogram.

Besides, establishment of an oil refinery, petro-chemical complex and storage, establishment of aircraft maintenance facility in Lalmonirhat, manufacturing unit of high-voltage cables, development of hotels and tourism facilities, railway link from Bhanga to Pyara Port are also on the list

Bangladesh will also propose the establishment of a special economic zone at Mireshorai, joint-research, marketing and construction of Urea-ammonia plant, upgrading services of state-owned mobile operator Teletalk to 4G, participation of Bangladeshi experts and farmers in the Red Sea project and outlays of $500 million from the Saudi investment support fund and $500 million from the portfolio investment fund.

The Bangladeshi finance minister said citizens of Bangladesh are looking forward to an excellent and mutually fruitful outcome of this meeting.

This visit demonstrates the warmth and depth of the excellent and time-tested relationship between the two nations.

Bangladesh received $2.6 billion in remittance last year from 2.8 million Bangladeshis working in the kingdom, accounting for 18 percent of total inward remittance.

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