The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is interested in establishing a training institute in Bangladesh to help create more skilled workforce for recruitment to the Middle Eastern nation.
Saudi Aramco, a national petroleum and natural gas company based in Dhahran, is also considering investing in Bangladesh's energy sector, said officials of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) at a joint economic commission meeting that began yesterday.
"Saudi Arabia wants to set up a training institute in Bangladesh so that they can hire more skilled manpower. They also want to recruit highly skilled nurses," an ERD official told The Daily Star.
After meeting with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal at his office in the planning ministry, Mahir Abdul Rahman Gassim, the deputy minister for labour and social development of Saudi Arabia, told reporters that a variety of issues are being discussed.
"Aramco is focusing on the energy sector and we [Saudi Arabia] are eager to make more investments in Bangladesh," said Gassim.
Gassim is leading the 40-member Saudi delegation for the two-day joint commission meeting. ERD Secretary Monowar Ahmed is head of the Bangladesh delegation.
Representatives from other Saudi Arabian companies, such as ACWA Power and Al Bawani, are also featuring in the Saudi delegation.
The Bangladesh team is comprised of officials from the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, commerce, expatriates' welfare, home affairs, agriculture, energy, education, ICT and fisheries.
The concerned officials said that Riyadh is keen on investing more in various sectors, including energy, infrastructure, communication networks, high-tech parks, IT, textiles and agro-based industries.
During her visit to the Middle East in October 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs and businessmen to invest in the special economic zones of Bangladesh.
A joint commission meeting is held every two years. However, to update and move forward with their plans for investment, a meeting between the two countries will be held every quarter, said Gassim, adding that his delegation was pleased by Bangladesh's hospitality.
Bangladesh looks forward to working with Saudi Aramco, which is a trillion-dollar company eager to invest in Bangladesh's energy sector, said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
Bangladesh is setting up 100 special economic zones which will require a tremendous electricity supply. There are also other projects that Saudi companies are interested in and those will be discussed at the meeting.
"We already signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia and will streamline that to start the process," Kamal said.
Bangladesh is focused on creating a skilled workforce for new areas such as technology and management. To that end, the government has prioritised education and skills development.
"If we do no augment our skills keeping the needs of tomorrow in mind, then our development will not be meaningful," he added.
Officials of the expatriates' welfare ministry said that they would request Saudi Arabia to ensure better protection for Bangladeshi workers.
In 2019, Bangladeshi expats in Saudi Arabia sent home $3.65 billion in remittance, almost 20 per cent of the country's total remittance of $18.35 billion that year.
However, there have been allegations of abuse, including that of female domestic workers. Also, there are some anomalies in labour recruitment.
"We requested the Saudi delegation to help address these anomalies and better protect Bangladeshi migrants," an expatriates' welfare ministry official said.