Bangladesh’s proposal to Saudi Arabia for investment in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and the establishment of an oil refinery-Zamkuwire
Bangladesh’s proposal to Saudi Arabia for investment in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and the establishment of an oil refinery is viewed by economic experts as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s new initiative to halt the gradual decrease of foreign reserves and overcome dollar shortages, which are making local business challenging and raising commodity prices.
On Friday, Hasina met with a nine-member Saudi delegation led by Saudi Commerce Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al-kassabi at her official residence in Dhaka.
“We want more Saudi investment,” Hasina said, according to press secretary Ihsanul Karim, who later provided some meeting details to reporters.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters that Saudi Arabia has recently begun activities in an SEZ in the port city of Chattogram, and that the Prime Minister has proposed another land out of its 100 SEZ.
Al-kassabi also attended the first day of the three-day Bangladesh Business Summit-2023 during his two-day official visit, which ended on Saturday.
Hasina opened the summit, calling for increased trade and investment.
According to government officials, the summit has already attracted 750 businessmen and others from both home and abroad.
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a leading civil society think tank in the country, told Anadolu that Bangladesh is desperate for new investment due to falling foreign reserves, the dollar crisis, and rising commodity prices.
According to Bangladesh Bank (BB), the country’s foreign reserves have fallen to $31 billion, the lowest level since 2017. In Fiscal Year 2021, reserves totaled $46.39 billion.
Rahman, a former Dhaka University professor, explained the reasons for seeking new investment and business relations with Saudi Arabia.
During the Russia-Ukraine war, not only was the supply chain disrupted, but gas prices reached new highs, affecting the economies of developing countries worldwide.
“Building new strategic and business relations with Saudi Arabia will have immediate to mid-term benefits for Bangladesh,” he believed.
Saudi Arabia, which is rich in oil, is one of the most popular destinations for Bangladeshi migrant workers. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, migrant-receiving countries have become more competitive for migrant senders.
“A strategic and business relationship with Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, in the long run, will help Bangladesh to secure its remittance earnings by strengthening bilateral ties,” he said.
In response to Hasina’s second proposal, which seeks Saudi Arabia’s investment in establishing an oil refinery in Bangladesh with facilities to refine oil, including crude oil, Rahman stated that it will reduce fuel prices in the country.