Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Wednesday expressed his hope that Saudi Arabian companies would invest in different sectors of Bangladesh on an increased level.
The Middle Eastern kingdom is now keen to invest in different countries, he said, adding, "We want to take advantage of this opportunity."
"We need more power to run the economic zones at the moment as we have already signed an agreement with Aramco for investment in power generation."
The minister said this following a meeting with a Saudi delegation at his Sher-e-Bangla Nagar office.
The government is setting up 100 economic zones. Many more economic zones will be set up. Some applications now remain to be approved.
Aramco's investment will serve the interest of the business community. Other Saudi companies might follow in the footsteps of Aramco, the minister said.
"Saudi Arabia has long been our development partner and they will remain so," he added.
Regarding manpower export to the KSA, the minister said until now only unskilled labour has been exported but from now on, Bangladesh will send skilled workers there.
In a survey last year, Malaysia found 37 percent of those in charge of managerial positions as being immigrants from Bangladesh, Kamal said.
Now the government is emphasising education and skill development because "we know that without a skilled workforce we cannot think of development in the future".
Saudi Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Development Mahir Abdul Rahman Gassim said Aramco will extend its support to Bangladesh.
Bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have peaked in three to four years, he said.
Private business entities such as Aramco, Al Baeani, ACWA Power, Aljomalih Energy, Water Company and a few others have also come with the government delegation.
The private companies are interested in investing in Bangladesh.
When asked about their potential investment volume in Bangladesh, he said it depends on the business opportunities. "If there is a good return from businesses, you will definitely find the funds and investment coming… we have eagerness to come and invest more in Bangladesh."
Meanwhile, the 13th Joint Economic Commission meeting between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia began in the National Economic Council's conference room in the capital's Sher-E-Bangla Nagar on Wednesday.
Officials of the two countries will hold discussions in six groups on cooperation and investment during the two-day meeting.
Manoar Ahmed, secretary of the Economic Relations Department, at the inauguration of the joint meeting, said,"Bangladesh offers huge investment opportunities. Investors from different countries are interested to invest in Bangladesh. Because of this, foreign investment in Bangladesh has recently increased. Saudi investors can utilise this opportunity."
"Economic growth in Bangladesh is 8.15 percent. We expect Saudi investment to help Bangladesh become a developing country by 2024 and a developed one by 2041."
"For sustainable development, Bangladesh needs massive investment in rail connectivity, ports, energy-power, information technology, agriculture, fisheries, education and health sectors," the secretary said.
A significant number of Bangladesh's labour force work in Saudi Arabia. Among them, most workers are skilled and semi-skilled, he added.
"Bangladeshi workers have many problems. All these issues will be discussed at the Joint Economic Commission meeting. Bangladesh is prioritising Saudi investment," Manoar said.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Mahir Abdul Rahman Al Gassim, head of the Saudi delegation, said, "Bangladesh has been creating opportunities for investment since 2018."
Some 29 representatives of 21 Saudi government agencies are in Bangladesh for the meeting.
There are a good number of representatives from private companies as well, Al Gassim said.
Altogether 1.6 million Bangladeshis are now working in Saudi Arabia and contributing to Saudi Arabia's development, the Saudi deputy minister said.