Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud will arrive in Bangladesh on 16 March for the first-ever political dialogue between the two countries where both sides will discuss the potential areas for large Saudi investments in Bangladesh.
There is the possibility of signing a deal on a 300-acre exclusive zone in Bangabandhu Shilpa Nagar for Saudi investors, Saudi Ambassador in Dhaka Issa bin Youssef Al-Duhailan told journalists on Wednesday.
While briefing the media about the forthcoming Dhaka visit by the Saudi foreign minister, at the invitation of his Bangladeshi counterpart AK Abdul Momen, the envoy highlighted various aspects of bilateral relations, including Saudi investors' desire to invest extensively in Bangladesh, and said all of the points will be discussed at the meeting between the two foreign ministers.
The two countries have a consensus on all bilateral as well as international issues, he added.
The Saudi foreign minister is likely to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during his visit apart from other engagements.
Even though the process of Saudi investment coming to Bangladesh has been there for a long time, no investment has come in that sense up until now.
Asked about this, the envoy said, "Large Saudi conglomerates want to invest in Bangladesh but the Covid-19 situation and a few government regulations are delaying the process."
Twenty-three big companies are expected to come together in Bangladesh in the near future, he said, adding, "Hopefully, we will see significant progress in the next few months."
The ambassador said Saudi investors are willing to invest in areas such as oil refineries, petrochemical complexes, LNG terminals, power plants, the food and medical industry, road and railway construction, port and harbour construction, civil and military aircraft maintenance and spare parts manufacturing, fertiliser, and solar energy in Bangladesh.
A 14-member team led by Saudi Transport Minister Salah Al-Jasser attended the recently concluded International Investment Summit 2021 in Bangladesh and showed their desire to invest extensively in the country, he mentioned, adding that Engineering Dimensions, a Saudi Arabian enterprise, has already confirmed a $1.8 billion investment here.
Saudi Arabia is studying the feasibility of establishing a special economic zone in Bangladesh and is considering scopes of investing in the construction of rail links connecting Dhaka and the Payra port, including the development of Cox's Bazar as an international tourist destination, he continued.
Saudi ACWA Power has already announced a $600 million investment to build a 700MW power plant and has proposed a $3.5 billion overall investment in Bangladesh.
The Saudi Red Sea Gateway Terminal wants to invest $1.2 billion in Bangladesh, the envoy added.
Earlier, the Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) of Bangladesh said the Saudi Ministry of Investment would soon send a delegation, comprising 29 investors, to Bangladesh to explore investment opportunities in the PPP projects.
Bangladesh-KSA Joint PPP Platform jointly organised a virtual conference between Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) and Ministry of Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently to explore potentials of PPP projects in Bangladesh.
Moreover, the shipping ministry recently presented 3 PPP models – Chattogram Port Authority, Container Terminal-2 of Payra Port Authority, and Container Terminal-2 of Payra Port Authority.
Sultana Afroz, secretary and chief executive officer of PPP Authority, recently gave an overview of PPP projects in Bangladesh, the legal framework and incentives provided by the government to attract PPP projects.
Red Sea Gateway Terminal was nominated to undertake the Patenga Container Terminal Project (if selected by the Bangladesh authorities) any other PPP projects related to sea ports in Bangladesh.
A government to government (G2G) memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia and PPP Authority, Bangladesh was signed on 28 October last year.
The Saudi ambassador, earlier, conveyed to the government of Bangladesh about the interests of the Saudi public and private investors to invest in different sectors in Bangladesh.
He particularly mentioned the interests of ARAMCO, Acwa Power, Alfanar Group, Engineering Dimension (ED), Red Sea Gateway Terminal (RSGT), Daelim KSA, Aljumairah Group etc.
At Wednesday's press conference, the envoy said his country acknowledges the contribution of Bangladeshi workers towards the development of the Saudi economy.
"It's a win-win situation for both countries," he said, adding more than 2.3 million Bangladeshi labourers are currently employed in Saudi Arabia in diverse fields.
Despite the fact that the recruitments have been reduced because of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia continues to recruit manpower from Bangladesh, and the flights between the two brotherly countries did not stop or even suspended, he added.
He told the media that Saudi Arabia issued more than 1.4 million working visas over the past five years, while the embassy issued more than 38,000 working visas last week alone, with a record 12,300 visas issued in one working day.
The ambassador expressed hope that Bangladesh's manpower export to Saudi Arabia will increase in the coming days.
Mentioning that the Saudi government is now focusing on trained workforces, he urged the Bangladesh government to invest in the training of aspiring migrants.
In response to a query, he said many mega projects are underway in Saudi Arabia where workers, as well as technical persons, will get jobs with high pay. Besides, medical professionals are in demand in the country, he added.
Replying to another question from journalists, he said the Saudi government has not yet made any decision on Hajj this year.
"We want that all pilgrims remain safe during the corona time," he said, adding, "We will inform you about it (Hajj) once the Saudi government makes a decision."