New Bangladesh ambassador vows to ‘elevate’ relations with Saudi Arabia

New Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr. Mohammed Javed Patwary
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Updated 24 October 2020

New Bangladesh ambassador vows to ‘elevate’ relations with Saudi Arabia

  • Country could become important political and development partner, says envoy

DHAKA: The newly appointed Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia has vowed to “elevate” his country's relationship with the Kingdom, as well as sending better-trained workers to tap into its post-coronavirus labor market.

Dr. Mohammed Javed Patwary, who is a former police chief, became ambassador to Saudi Arabia in late August.

“Bangladesh, rather than becoming only a labor-sending country, could be an important development and political partner of Saudi Arabia, that is a plan I envisage to implement,” Patwary told Arab News earlier this week.

He said he was planning to advise Dhaka on sending skilled or semi-skilled workers to Saudi Arabia in the future, and that a discussion was underway with Saudi Takamol for the certification of Bangladeshi workers prior to their arrival in the Kingdom.

Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia had the same stance on most international issues, particularly those in the Muslim world, he added.

“To elevate our political relations with the Kingdom to a strategic level and address regional and global security issues together, we have joined the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition,” he said, referring to the intergovernmental counterterrorism alliance of Muslim countries founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Enhanced political and security relations would be built “within an ecosystem of cooperation in other sectors, including economic and commerce,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is the main destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers and currently hosts more than 2.2 million of them. 

Patwary said since many of them had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak and business shutdowns, he was planning on providing them with training to reintegrate them into the Kingdom's job market with the help of Saudi agencies so that they could become more competitive.

“I also plan to explore the possibility of engaging and employing our workers in the sector of agriculture, fisheries and livestock in Saudi Arabia especially under the prospective Red Sea coastal farming and aquaculture development projects in the near future.”

Patwary said that as Bangladesh had achieved self-sufficiency in food production for its own population, the country's expertise in agriculture, livestock and fisheries could be used in the Saudi context for increasing the volume of agricultural products, especially in the ongoing NEOM and Red Sea coastal area development projects.

The new ambassador wanted to expedite investment projects, following the visit of a high-profile Saudi delegation to Bangladesh in March 2019.

“It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the pace of investment negotiation to some extent. But we have been organizing many virtual meetings between the prospective Saudi investors and concerned authorities in Bangladesh over the last few months. We are hopeful of resuming our discussion in full swing as soon as normalcy returns, and (are) also expecting Saudi delegations and experts to visit the sites in Bangladesh when commercial flight operations resume.”

He also expressed his gratitude for Saudi Arabia's support in addressing the Rohingya crisis. Bangladesh is hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in 2017 to escape a military-led crackdown.

“We thank Saudi Arabia for its leadership role within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in standing up against such state-sponsored crimes against humanity,” Patwary said. “Saudi Arabia is also a major proponent of the UN resolution against Myanmar. Besides, as the OIC summit chair, the Kingdom is providing valuable guidelines and financial support for the case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice. We are also grateful to King Salman for the humanitarian support to the refugees.”

UK cuts overseas aid after worst recession in over 300 years

Updated 35 min 29 sec ago

UK cuts overseas aid after worst recession in over 300 years

  • Decision goes against the government’s promise last year to maintain the aid target and drew sharp criticism
  • A minister has quit, arguing that the decision “will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right”

LONDON: The British government faced fury Wednesday over its decision to ditch its long-standing target for overseas aid in the wake of what it described as the deepest recession in over three centuries.
In a statement to lawmakers, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the target to allocate 0.7% of national income to overseas aid will be cut to 0.5%. The move is expected to free up 4 billion pounds ($5.3 billion) for the Conservative government to use elsewhere, money that critics say could be used to save tens of thousands of lives in the poorest parts of the world.
While expressing “great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target,” Sunak said “sticking rigidly” to it “is difficult to justify” to people at a time when the economy has been so battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“At a time of unprecedented crisis, government must make tough choices,” he said.
Without giving a timetable, he said that the government aims to return to the target first laid out by the Labour government of Tony Blair in 2004. And he said that even with the new target, the UK will still be the second biggest aid spender among the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.
The decision goes against the government’s promise last year to maintain the aid target and drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum, including within Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own Conservative Party.
Liz Sugg, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, has quit, arguing that the decision “will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right.”
The UK has for years been considered one of the world’s leaders in development and aid so the government’s decision to lower the target was met with anger and dismay from poverty campaigners.
“Cutting the UK’s lifeline to the world’s poorest communities in the midst of a global pandemic will lead to tens of thousands of otherwise preventable deaths,” said Oxfam Chief Executive Danny Sriskandarajah.
Save the Children Chief Executive Kevin Watkins also said the decision had “broken Britain’s reputation for leadership on the world stage” ahead of its hosting of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference next year.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined the chorus of disapproval, describing the cut as “shameful and wrong” and urging lawmakers “to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.”
In a sobering assessment that provided the backdrop to the cut, Sunak sought to balance ongoing support for the economy with a longer-term commitment to heal public finances after a stark deterioration.
“Our health emergency is not yet over and our economic emergency has only just begun,” he said.
Sunak said the government’s independent economic forecasters are predicting that the British economy will shrink 11.3% this year, the “largest fall in output for more than 300 years.”
The Office for Budget Responsibility expects the economy to grow again next year as coronavirus restrictions are eased and hoped-for vaccines come on stream. The agency is predicting growth of 5.5% in 2021 and 6.6% the following year. As a result the output lost during the pandemic won’t have been recouped until the final quarter of 2022.
Sunak warned that the pandemic’s cost will create long-term “scarring,” with the economy 3% smaller in 2025 than predicted in March, before the spring lockdown.
The massive fall in output this year has led to a huge increase in public borrowing as the government sought to cushion the blow and tax revenues fell. Sunak said the government has pumped 280 billion pounds into the economy to get through the pandemic. Public borrowing this fiscal year is set to hit 394 billion pounds, or 19% of national income, “the highest recorded level of borrowing in our peacetime history.”
He warned that underlying public debt is rising toward 100% of annual GDP.
“High as these costs are, the costs of inaction would have been far higher,” he said. “But this situation is clearly unsustainable over the medium term.”
Sunak said the 1 million doctors and nurses in the National Health Service will get a pay rise next year, as will 2.1 million of the lowest paid workers in the public sector. However, he said pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be “paused” next year.
Sunak also announced extra money to support Johnson’s program of investments in infrastructure across the UK, particularly in the north of England, where the Conservatives won seats during the last general election. A new infrastructure bank will also be headquartered in the north of England.