Bangladesh seeks Saudi investments in energy projects
Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, 2nd left, holds talks with Asharqia Chamber Secretary-General Abdulrahman A. Al-Wabel, 2nd right, in Dammam on Tuesday
Bangladesh government officials have been traveling through Saudi Arabia trying to secure public and private investment in oil and gas, power and transportation projects.
During a visit Tuesday to the Asharqia Chamber in Dammam, Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said Bangladesh is seeking more than $9 billion in foreign investment to build electrical power plantsto address its growing demand. He discussed the possibility of Saudi investments in the Bangladesh power sector with a group of local businessmen led by Asharqia Chamber Secretary-General Abdulrahman A. Al-Wabel.
Bangladesh has finalized a roadmap to generate around 9,426 megawatts of electricity by 2015. Some 571 megawatts could be added to the national grid within a year and a half. At present, the power generation capacity in Bangladesh is more than 5,000 mw.
Muhith said Dhaka is devising ways and means to attract capital from both external and domestic sources for investment in the next two decades adding that there are a number of domestic and international initiatives aimed to attract investment to the power sector.
"This will be the biggest opportunity being opened up for private sector investment since the country's independence," Muhith said of a $9 billion plan to install 7,000 megawatts of power by the year 2014.
"We just want a firm commitment from the stakeholders — both public and private — for coming out of the current catastrophic power and energy crunch. The government is exploring all sorts of alternatives to exploit the use of coal, natural gas, hydro, liquid-fuel, liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), nuclear plants, etc. to resolve the energy crisis," he said.
Muhith signed a loan agreement worth $57 million in Jeddah on June 2 with his Saudi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Assaf for the construction of the proposed Mouchak-Mogbazar flyover in Dhaka. The total cost of the flyover project, which is designed to relieve traffic congestion in the nation's capital, is $115 million. Partial expenditure for the project will be met by money provided by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD).
During discussions, Muhith urged Al-Assaf to extend support to more Saudi investment in different development projects in Bangladesh. Al-Assaf agreed in principle to Muhith's request to remove the 5 percent import tariff on Bangladeshi products, which would have to be approved by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Muhith said Bangladesh is now the world's second-largest garment exporter after China. "However, most of our products come to Saudi Arabia via third-party brands," the minister said. "They come to Saudi Arabia from England, Italy and other countries. We are trying to explore avenues of exporting directly to Saudi Arabia and other countries."
Muhith also has been complimented by Saudi officials and businessmen on the contributions Bangladeshi expatriate workers make to the Kingdom, and he has encouraged both the government and private sector to employ more of his nation's skilled labor force in the future.