Speaking to Prothom Alo, the Saudi ambassador in Dhaka Essa Yousef Essa Al Duhailan said that the matter of strengthening political relations will feature in the political discussion. Priority will also be given to which areas investment can be increased in Bangladesh in order to consolidate economic ties between the two countries.

Saudi investors are interested in investing in various sectors of Bangladesh including ports, energy, oil refineries, petrochemicals, LNG terminals and more.

The Saudi ambassador said the Saudi port management company Red Sea Gateway was interested in investing 1.20 billion dollars (120 crore dollars) in Bangladesh. The Saudi firm Al Salam Aerospace has expressed interest in investing in aircraft maintenance and repair in Lalmonirhat. The energy production company Aqua Power has declared investment of 3.50 billion (350 crore dollars) in Bangladesh. They have already invested 600 million dollars (60 crore dollars) in a power plant. Another Saudi firm has announced a 1.80 billion dollar (180 crore dollar) investment in the engineering sector in Bangladesh.

Preparations are being made for a number of MOUs to be signed after the first ever political dialogue between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. However, the number of these MOUs has not been finalised as yet.

The foreign ministry's secretary (East) Mashfee Binte Shams told Prothom Alo, till now at least six MOUs have been finalised for signing during the Saudi foreign minister's visit to Dhaka. These include cooperation in the customs sector, cooperation between the foreign service academies of the two countries, cooperation in the information and technology sector, expanding and protecting bilateral investment, defence cooperation and exchanged of convicted persons.

Bangladesh and Saudi diplomats have said that in recent years importance has been placed on multidimensional relations in business, investment, defence and other spheres of cooperation.

Saudi Arabia feels that while Saudi investors are interested to invest in Bangladesh, this has not reached the expected volume. Investment has taken time due to the Covid-19 outbreak and also procedural problems.

An official of the foreign ministry, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that it is true that the investment is not be implemented as speedily as Saudi Arabia wants it. But it is not that everything is held up. However, geopolitical matters must be taken into consideration in the case of investment in infrastructure and mega projects.

While relations between the two countries have improved in recent years, problems have been created by at least 68 thousand Rohingyas going to Saudi Arabia with Bangladeshi passports. Saudi Arabia raises this issue at any level of discussions. Foreign ministry sources say that this issue may be raised during the Dhaka visit of the Saudi foreign minister. With this in mind, last month a high level meeting was held to review Bangladesh's steps taken to resolve the issue.

Former Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Golam Masih told Prothom Alo, in recent times Saudi Arabia's relations with Bangladesh have extended beyond cooperation in the labour sector. They are interested in investment here and that is why 23 Saudi companies are planning on investing in Bangladesh. In order to make most of this opportunity, projects must be implemented speedily and procedural problems must be resolved.

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