Saudi Arabia's commerce and investment minister Dr Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qosaibi on Thursday termed Bangladesh a "new Asian Tiger" and expressed his country's interest to bring the existing relations between the two countries to a new height.
The minister, who led a high profile investment delegation from Saudi Arabia, also proposed the formation of a Saudi-Bangladesh business council to enhance bilateral trade.
He was addressing a business dialogue at the Hotel Intercontinental in the city organised by Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) in collaboration with Foreign Ministry.
"We are here to support, work, listen, and explore opportunities. We are very serious about opening a new chapter that enhances communication and dialogue while boosting business relations between the two nations," the Saudi minister said.
The Saudi delegation included economy and planning minister Mohammed bin Mezyed Altwaijri, representatives of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and 17 top business groups.
Referring to the lower bilateral trade despite the recent increase, the visiting minister said the visit aims at opening a dialogue and inviting Bangladesh for the next chapter of dialogue in Riyadh and identify match-making partners such as B2B, G2G and B2G .
Lauding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for leading the country to achieve a remarkable economic growth, the Saudi minister said, "We believe Bangladesh has been a great partner of Saudi Arabia."
"Currently over two million Bangladeshi workers are engaged in Saudi Arabia's development process and they are helping the building of the kingdom as a partner," he added.
While delivering the welcome speech, Bangladesh's Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made a tremendous progress in the last 10 years.
In the last 10 years, the country toppled at least 17 countries and "we have a goal of toppling another 20 countries by the next 21 years, and we will be the 31st economy of the world by 2030," the finance minister said.
"The country's GDP growth rate would be around 8.0 per cent in the current fiscal and over the next five years, our GDP growth rate will hit double-digit," he added.
Private Industry and Investment Adviser to the Prime Minister Salman F Rahman gave a presentation on 'Business Climate and Investment Opportunities in Bangladesh.'
He said FDI inflow to Bangladesh was US$2.26 billion in the first three quarters of 2018, which was 51.6 per cent higher than the previous year.
Citing the opportunities in the domestic market, he said every year two million people join the rank of middle and affluent class.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have signed six instruments for the development of Bangladesh's different sectors including power and industries, report agencies.
The instruments -- two agreements and four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) -- were signed in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and visiting Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment Dr Majid Bin Abdullah al Qosaibi and Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed Bin Mazyed Al-Tawijri at a ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office in the capital.
An agreement on the construction on 100 megawatt solar power plant was signed by Alfanar Company of Saudi Arabia and Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh (EGCB).
Managing Director (MD) of EGCB Arun Kumar Saha and Vice-President of Sales and Marketing of Aslfanar Company Kahlid Bin Qabel Al Sulami inked the deal on behalf of their respective sides.
The General Electric Manufacturing Company of Bangladesh and Engineering Dimension of Saudi Arabia penned the agreement on manufacturing of transformers and electricity tools.
MD of General Electric Sultan Ahmed Bhuiyan and CEO of Engineering Dimension Mohammad Nazib Al Hazi inked the deal.
The MoU on manpower export was signed by BMET of Bangladesh and Al Maml Trading Estate of Saudi Arabia. Acting Director General of BMET SK Rafikul Islam and Chairman of Al Maml Trading Estate inked the deal.
Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation and Yusuf Al Raji Construction signed an MoU on setting up a Urea Formaldehyde-85 plant in Bangladesh. Industries Secretary Md Abdul Halim and Saudi entrepreneur Yusuf Bin Abdullah Al Razi signed the deal.
The MoU on establishing Saudi-Bangladesh Biomedical Engineering and Technology was penned by Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC) and Al Afaliq Group of Saudi Arabia.
Industries Secretary Abdul Halim and CEO of Al Afaliq Group Mohammed Abdulaziz S Alfaleq signed the instrument.
Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation and Riyadh Cable Group of Saudi Arabia signed an MoU on producing cable. Industries Secretary Abdul Halim and CEO of Riyadh Cable Group Mohamed Mustafa Mohamed Rafea inked the deal.
Ministers and advisers to the prime minister and senior officials of the different ministries were present on the occasion.
Earlier, BIDA officials said Bangladesh proposed 16 joint venture projects mostly with Saudi investments in power and energy, aeronautic industry, bio-medical engineering, railway communications and hospitality sectors involving at least $15 billion.
"The amount (of expected Saudi investment) could range between $15 billion to $25 billion," BIDA executive chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam said.
The proposed projects are: Construction of a 100MW solar-hybrid power system and floating solar in Feni, an electrical goods manufacturing unit, chemical urea-formaldehyde plant, joint venture in food-bakeries, speed railway lines between Dhaka and Chattogram and Bhanga and Pyara Port, an oil refinery, petro-chemical complex, aircraft maintenance facility, high-voltage cables manufacturing unit, establishment of a Saudi-Bangladesh Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology (SBIBET) development of hotels and tourism facilities.
Bangladesh also proposed the establishment of a special economic zone at Mirershorai, 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 are also on the list.
Saudi ministers meet PM
Meanwhile, visiting Saudi Trade and Investment Minister Dr Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasaibi and Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Bin Mazyed Al-Twaijri had a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her office on Thursday.
They said that Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud had expressed keenness to strengthen economic relations of his country with Bangladesh for mutual benefits.
Prime Minister's press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
Referring to his meeting with the Saudi King before flying for Bangladesh, Saudi Minister for Trade and Investment Dr Majid said that King Salman wants to develop strong economic relations with Bangladesh.
The minister said they identified seven sectors for boosting cooperation between the two countries, including power, railway, aeronautics as well as post and telecommunications.
He said Saudi entrepreneurs are keen to invest in Bangladesh.
The two ministers highly praised the progress of Bangladesh under dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. "You should be proud of yourself and your team (for development of Bangladesh)," said Dr Majid.
Welcoming the two Saudi ministers, the Prime Minister conveyed her regards to the Saudi king and the Crown Prince.
Sheikh Hasina said her government has set up special economic zones where the government is giving lands to various companies so that they can establish their industries according to their choice.
In this regard, the Prime Minister asked the Saudi entrepreneurs to invest in the special economic zones for the mutual benefits.
Talking about aeronautic sector which was identified for Saudi investment, she said the government has enacted a law to set up an Aviation and Aerospace University in Lalmonirhat.
The Prime Minister highlighted development of different sectors, including education and healthcare.
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