Shariful Islam Kazol, a youth from Cumilla, went to the Middle East to work as a driver at the end of last year after spending almost Tk6 lakh.
Although he had driving experience in Bangladesh, he could not keep pace with the highways in Qatar.
Since he failed to achieve the required skills after trying for six months, the recruiting authority cancelled the contract and sent him back to Bangladesh.
He now shoulders Tk5 lakh in debt.
Despite a significant demand for drivers abroad, Bangladesh cannot send workers as most lack the skill necessary to drive in foreign countries.
To remedy this, the government has planned to send over 1 lakh drivers abroad after providing them with driving and auto mechanic training in 64 technical training centres in every district of the country.
Saudi Arabia is currently in need of 1 lakh drivers. To capitalise on this opportunity, the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment has sent a project proposal to the planning commission.
The proposal will be submitted to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday. The five-year project, worth Tk267.35 crore, aims to bring in Tk3,240 crore in remittances per year.
If Ecnec approves the project, the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) will have to complete it by 2024.
Bangladeshi High Commission in Saudi Arabia said there are more than one lakh employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, reads the project proposal.
The project aims to reduce road accidents in Bangladesh and also send adequate amount of drivers to Saudi Arabia.
Under the project, the trainees will be provided trainings on driving and vehicle maintenance. Additionally, they will be taught English and Arabic.
To train 1,20,400 individuals, 128 pickups, eight trucks, one microbus and various machineries will be bought under the project titled Desh Bideshe Karmoshongsthaner Jonno Driving Proshikkhon Prodan, which loosely translates to Providing Driving Lessons to Create Employment at Home and Abroad.
Of the total project cost, Tk109.84 crore has been allocated for buying vehicles and machinery from state-owned Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory.
The courses in the technical training centres will be managed by 192 trainers and 64 skilled people, which will cost Tk60 crore.
To make getting licenses easier for trainees, the planning ministry has suggested signing an agreement between the BMET and BRTA and opening a BRTA booth in each training centre.
A driver who works in Saudi Arabia will initially earn around 1,350 Saudi riyal or Tk30,600 per month. The annual earnings of 1 lakh drivers will amount to around Tk3,672 crore.
However, according to the last pay scale, the monthly wage of drivers working in Saudi Arabia is 3,500 Saudi riyal (Tk79,208), which will be 6,448 Saudi riyal (145,924) after adding average bonus of 2,948 Saudi riyal.
So, our revenues will increase manifolds if we can send skilled drivers to Saudi Arabia, the proposal reads.
Trainees will not have pay any fees. Instead, the trainees will get Tk6,600 as transport allowance.
BMET Director (Training) Dr Md Nurul Islam told The Business Standard that around Tk68 crore has been allocated for the transport allowance of trainees.
"Besides, there is allocation of around Tk21 crore – including Tk345 for each light vehicle license and Tk1,680 for heavy vehicle license," he added.
The BMET director further said the project has been taken to properly utilise our manpower. From each district, 20 trainees will be selected through written and verbal examinations.
After receiving training, the drivers will be sent abroad by the government. As there is no scope for middlemen to get involved in the process, this will be affordable for the trainees.