The Bahrain media has reported that a Bangladesh project to revive Bangladeshi-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Bahrain in the post-Covid-19 days is in the pipeline.
The first-of-its-kind collaboration planned between the two countries is the brainchild of Bangladesh’s new Ambassador to Bahrain, Dr Nazrul Islam, Dubai’s Zawya reported citing Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News.
The envoy has started talks with banks in Bangladesh on the possibility of co-ordinating with banks and other entities in Bahrain on schemes to support the community.
“I have met Bahrain’s foreign and interior ministers and I will be soon meeting the finance and industry ministers to discuss a project to support the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in our community,” he said.
“Bahrain’s government has projects through its Economic Development Board, Bahrain Development Bank and Tamkeen to support the SMEs.
“I am discussing with small banks in my country to see how we can collaborate with the Bahrain government to support such businesses in our community.”
According to the envoy, there are around 500 Bangladeshis who own commercial registrations (CRs) for SMEs in the service, trading and general maintenance sectors in Bahrain.
He said a good number of them have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis and his team is gathering feedback from them on the proposed project.
“If this collaboration works out, we will be able to help these businesses to revive post Covid-19.
“Meanwhile, we are assessing the readiness of these SMEs for this project.
“My suggestion to the banks is to help these businesses with low-interest loans, so that they can start fresh post Covid-19.
“Most of the CRs are for repair shops, electrical and general trade outlets and cleaning companies, which are essential for everyday life.”
Dr Islam lauded the financial aid packages and the amnesty announced by the Bahrain government, and urged his countrymen to regularise their stay in the kingdom. He also noted that a large number of Bangladeshis preferred to apply for flexi work permits.
“We are encouraging our people to take advantage of the amnesty and legalise their status.
“Since the fees have been reduced, we believe that many Bangladeshis will opt for flexi work permits and look for jobs when things get better.
“According to our estimates there are around 100,000 Bangladeshis in the services and construction sectors and 30,000 plus need to be regularised.”
The nine-month amnesty for illegal workers which started last month and ends on December 31 is aimed at covering an estimated 55,000 expatriate workers of different nationalities.
The Labour Market Regulatory Authority launched the initiative as part of Covid-19 measures.
Citing the Gulf Daily News, Zawya also reported that more than 15,000 undocumented workers have so far applied for an amnesty under which they can either leave Bahrain or regularise their stay.
Bangladesh is the second largest expatriate community in Bahrain, after India, and has an estimated 200,000 of its nationals living in the kingdom, of which more than 40,000 are estimated to be without valid visas.