Jeddah: Saudi Arabia has expressed its willingness to recruit some 5 lakh additional manpower from Bangladesh to meet its demand for workers in various sectors.
"We want to recruit 5 lakh more workforce from Bangladesh," Saudi Minister for Labour Dr Mofarrej Al-Hoqubani said when he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Royal Conference Palace here on Sunday night.
PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
Sheikh Hasina is now in Saudi Arabia on a five-day official visit to the oil-rich country at the invitation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The Saudi Minister said the Bangladeshis are working here with a good reputation while there are also some 42,000 female domestic helps working in the KSA.
Bangladeshi workers started working in Saudi Arabia in 1976 and the KSA has now over 2 million Bangladeshis, making it the largest Bangladeshi Diaspora.
Bangladesh is one of the largest labour suppliers to Saudi Arabia with it obtaining the biggest share in 2007 -- 23.50 percent of the 1.5 million Saudi Arabia visas for its workers issued in the year.
Both the Prime Minister and the Saudi Labour Minister agreed to stamp out the influence of middlemen in recruiting manpower to cut the recruitment cost.
Dr Mofarrej Al-Hoqubani said, "Apart from recruiting workers, our goal is to open recruitment of doctors, teachers and engineers from Bangladesh."
About sending female domestic helps from Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia, Hasina said her government has organised a short-term training course for this house helps and this training would be turned into a long-term one.
She mentioned that the government has also introduced online registration of workers to make the recruitment process easier.
The Prime Minister requested the Saudi Labour Minister to be strict in manpower recruitment process, saying, "Please, don't allow middlemen to exploit."
In response, Dr Mofarrej said, "It's our responsibility to protect the workers."
Meanwhile, Royal Court Adviser Yasir Al Rumayyan called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also at the same venue.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister hoped that more investment would come from the KSA in various sectors of Bangladesh. “Saudi Arabia can invest in Bangladesh in coal-based power generation projects alongside improving the circular road, rail and waterways around the capital,” she said.
She also suggested making more effective the Bangladesh-Saudi Arabia Joint Economic Commission (JEC) for the mutual benefits of the two countries.
Highly appreciating Saudi King Salman's pragmatic steps to counter terrorism, Sheikh Hasina said Islam is a religion of peace. "If there’s any problem among the Muslim countries, this can be resolved through dialogue."
Referring to the Vision-2030 of Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister said her government had also earlier set the Vision-2021 and has been working tirelessly to materialise the goal.
In response, the Saudi Royal Court Adviser said although the KSA used to make its 95 percent investment within the country, it is now working on a new strategy to expand investment internationally.
Earlier, Saudi Assistant Minister for Defence Md Abdullah Alayser called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Royal Conference Palace.During the meeting, the Saudi assistant minister underscored the need for strengthening cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh in the defence sector.The Prime Minister said her government has been working to build strong armed forces and reiterated her government's ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards terrorism.She said Bangladesh Army has a special construction battalion and offered its assistance to the Saudi armed forces in their different construction projects. Besides, she said, Bangladesh Army has a new engineering unit.Chief of Saudi Intelligence Khalid bin Ali Humaidan also met the Prime Minister at the Royal Conference Palace.During the meeting, Khalid described Bangladesh as a very important Muslim nation, saying Jeddah wants to further strengthen its relations with Dhaka.Hasina stressed the importance of sharing information between the intelligence agencies of the two countries on terrorism.
On terrorism, the Saudi intelligence chief said terrorism has polluted religion. "We want to regain the honour of the Muslim Ummah by curbing terrorism," he said.Hasina said religion has earned a bad name for the misdeeds of a handful of people. "We must remove it and convince people about the true spirit of Islam...different people have different views, but we should have faith in Allah," she said.