Published at: The Daily Star, March 07, 2019
Bangladesh expects Saudi investments of up to $20 billion in various projects, including high-speed train link, oil refinery and an aircraft repair and maintenance facility.
“Investments worth $15b to $20b will come from the Saudi government for 16 projects,” Kazi M Aminul Islam, executive chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), said.
He was speaking at briefing at his office yesterday ahead of a meeting between the two countries today.
A 34-member Saudi delegation arrived in Dhaka last night to join the meeting. Commerce and Investment Minister Majed Bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi and Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed bin Mezyed Altwaijri are in the team.
The BIDA chief said financing agreements and MoUs on some projects would be signed while discussions on some others would be held during the meeting at Hotel InterContinental Dhaka.
From the Bangladesh side, foreign, finance, planning, commerce, industries, and power and energy ministers and the prime minister’s adviser on private industry and investment will take part in the meeting. Besides, top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and BIDA will be present.
Aminul said the funds would come from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), a $250 billion fund headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
The Saudi government was keen to invest in Bangladesh as part of its Look East investment policy due to the economic growth in the East compared to the West, he told journalists.
“The Saudi companies will not only sell their products here, but also set a target to export goods to the neighbouring countries.”
Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) and Saudi ARAMCO might sign a deal to set up an oil refinery, petrochemical complex and storage, said the BIDA chief. According to the project proposal, it will cost around $7b to $15b.
He said a team of ARAMCO has already visited Bangladesh and talked to BPC officials about the implementation of the project.
Aminul told The Daily Star that the government would propose to invest in high-speed railway link from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar and to all divisional cities in phases.
Bangladesh would also propose setting up an aircraft repair and maintenance facility in Lalmonirhat and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had special interest in the project, he said.
The PM wanted to implement this type of project as all Biman aircraft were needed to send abroad for repair or servicing, the BIDA chief said.
According to the project proposal, it will cost around $1b.
Saudi Arabia’s lone aircraft repair and maintenance company, Al Salam Aerospace, is jointly owned by its government and the Boeing. The country has already expressed its interest in developing the facility in Lalmonirhat.
A delegation from the company recently visited Bangladesh and explored the potentials and skills of Bangladeshi workers in the sector.
On the other hand, another team led by Bangladesh Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat also visited Al Salam’s facilities in the KSA.
The facility in Lalmonirhat would be developed by the air forces of the two countries, sources said.
The Bangladesh government will also seek Saudi investment for Teletalk as its strategic partner for developing the services of the state-owned telecom operator.
According to the project proposal, around $1.2b will be needed to upgrade the company.
Besides, the two countries will discuss setting up a diammonium phosphate (DAP) and urea fertiliser plant abroad.
The factory will be built either in Saudi Arabia or Morocco as raw materials are easily available there. The estimated cost of the project is $700m to $900m, according to the project proposal.
State-run Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation and Saudi-Korean company Hanwah would form a joint venture company to set up the plant, it added.
Another factory will be set up in the northwest of Bangladesh for producing urea-ammonia at a cost of $2b to $3b.
The government will also propose building a hydropower plant in Nepal under a joint venture platform for exporting cheap electricity to Bangladesh which will cost $3.5b.
Golam Moshi, Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Mohamamd Abul Hassan, counsellor (economic) at the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, were present at the briefing.