Bangladesh could benefit immensely through effective steps to widen the existing bilateral relations with Oman
Sources in Bangladesh Embassy in Muscat said a leading media personality of Oman and expatriate Bangladeshi businessmen made the suggestion while talking to the BSS in Muscat recently.
There is a huge demand for engineers, physicians, skilled workers for agriculture sector, mid and top level managers at private and public financial institutions and hotels apart from unskilled and semi-skilled manpower in Oman, they added.
Oman can also be another prospective market for Bangladesh's skilled manpower, garments and industrial products if Bangladesh could explore the potentials through strengthening bilateral relations especially trade ties with the oil rich Gulf state.
Bangladesh Ambassador to Oman Golam Akbar Khondakar told a number of visiting Bangladeshi journalists that Bangladesh-Oman relations are cordial and friendly but Bangladesh should take high profile diplomatic initiatives to exploit the maximum potentials as economy of Oman has been growing at a rapid pace.
Referring to the frequent visits of top-level leaders from many countries, particularly from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, he said more reciprocal visits of top to ministerial level between the two nations would help establish broader understanding and close cooperation in trade, culture, manpower export and other fields.
He said initiative has already been taken to organise maiden visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister to Oman at a convenient time as part of efforts to cement further the relations. "Sultan Qaboos of Oman has given schedule to welcome Bangladesh Prime Minister at the end of this year," Khondakar said.
For the first time, he said, an agreement on "avoidance of double taxation from income derived from international transport" between Dhaka and Muscat is going to be inked soon aimed at increasing and easing the trade relations.
Signing of another agreement titled "promotion and reciprocal protection of investment and business promotion" between the two countries is also under process.
"I think there is a gap in both the sides, initiatives should be taken from two governments to fill up the gap and make the relations more cordial and brotherly," Chairman and Chief Editor of the Times of Oman Essa M Al Zadjali said.
As a highly acclaimed personality in Oman, Essa Zadjali, who also served as consul general of Oman in Bombay in India during the period of 1974-1979, viewed that exchange of trade, sports and cultural delegations and visits of academics could play a vital role in expanding cooperation between the two nations.
President of the Association of Bangladeshi Welfare, Oman, Syed Mohammad Manjurul Islam said Bangladesh could take the advantages of exporting manpower, sea foods and industrial products by developing bilateral relations with Oman as there were still enormous scopes.
"Both earnings and working environment are conducive here compared to other countries as a non-skilled Bangladeshi could easily save Tk 12000 per month in Oman," Manjur, who has been living in Oman for more then 15 years, said.
Oman, about six times bigger than Bangladesh in terms of land area (309,500 square kilometres) with a very small population (2.8 million, of them around seven lakh expatriates), has vast business prospects as its economy has been growing fast following rapid and long-term development initiatives in different sectors, particularly in infrastructure and agro-based industries.
Official statistics show that its gross national income (GNP) was 7,995.8 million Omani rials (per rial = US$2.58) and per capita income was US$8,302.6 in 2003. Exchange rate of Omani rial and US dollar is now 1: 3.5.
At present, about 0.13 million Bangladeshis are working in Oman and most of them are engaged in low-paid jobs. The figure was over 0.20 million a decade back.
At least 0.35 million Indian and around 0.25 million Pakistani expatriates have been working in Oman occupying most of the businesses and private and public managerial posts taking advantages of the state-level good relations with Oman.
A long time pause in issuing fresh visas for Bangladeshi nationals and reluctance from the Omani government to renew the expired visas of Bangladeshi expatriates are the major causes in the rapid fall of Bangladeshi workforce there, sources claimed.