Malaysian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh: A sign of strengthening partnership

Malaysian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh: A sign of strengthening partnership

Prime Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Najib Razak began his three-day trip to Bangladesh from November 17th to further enhance relations between the two countries. It is Prime Minister Najib’s first official visit to Bangladesh, at the invitation of his Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, when they met in New York recently.

He is accompanied by his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and a 62-member delegation which would include Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Malaysia’s Special Envoy to South Asia Tan Sri S. Samy Vellu.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister held meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to strengthen two-way ties between both countries

Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Norlin Othman reportedly said the prime minister’s visit would be meaningful because apart from the political and economic relations, which had long existed between both countries.

Najib visited the National Martyrs’ Monument at Savar and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum during the visit. Malaysian Prime Minister called on Bangladesh President Mohammad Abdul Hamid and the two leaders discussed several matters of mutual interest..

Najib opened the Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Memorial Specialised Hospital and Nursing College in Gazipur which is built by a foundation owned by Sheikh Hasina’s family and named after the Bangladesh prime minister’s mother. It will be managed by Malaysia’s KPJ Healthcare Bhd.

Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah, in a separate programme, visited the Dhaka Community Hospital which would celebrate the eight anniversary of the Cleft Lip and Palate Project, a collaboration between the hospital and Mercy Malaysia. The World Children Welfare Fund, under the PERMATA childhood education programme, donated RM103,000 (Malaysian currency) last month to Mercy Malaysia for the Cleft Lip and Palate Project at the hospital.

Bilateral Relations:

Over the years, the bilateral partnership has grown in depth and dimension. The partnership has extended to a broad range of sectors such as economic, technical assistance, trade and investment, employment of Bangladeshi work force in Malaysia, defence cooperation, education exchange, tourism and human resource development.

In October 2003 Malaysian Minister for Human Resources Dr. Fong Chan Onn visited Bangladesh and during the visit, the Bangladesh private sector called upon the Multimedia Development Corporation of Malaysia to assist the private and public sectors of Bangladesh in developing the IT sector to facilitate outsourcing of jobs to Bangladesh from Malaysia

On 19th December 2004, former Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Mohammad visited Bangladesh for two days together with a business delegation. Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized a forum for discussing to increase economic cooperation between the two countries. A 12-point charter of declaration, assuring the governments of full support from private sector in implementing the business plan has been adopted. They also recommended the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.

On 13th July, 2012, Bangladesh Commerce Minister called upon the Malaysian investors to undertake new ventures in Bangladesh’s fast growing manufacturing, services and infrastructure sectors. He was speaking at the inaugural session of Showcase Bangladesh’12 at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur.

Two Ministers from Bangladesh -Foreign Minister and Labour & Employment Minister of Bangladesh visited Malaysia in late April 2009 to persuade the Malaysian authorities to re-consider their decision. In 2011, Malaysia allowed illegal Bangladeshi workers to legalise them through application and assured to recruit more Bangladeshi skilled and semi-skilled workers.

Bangladesh signed a MoU with Malaysia on Nov 26 2012 agreeing to send workers at a low migration cost from January 2013. The government –to-government level mechanism is to avoid illegal Bangladeshi workers entering Malaysia through unscrupulous man-power agents. It is reported a total of 30,000 workers would be gradually sent to Malaysia.

As many as 10,000 workers would go to Malaysia from Bangladesh in the first phase, followed by the second phase of 20,000. There are currently more than 320,000 Bangladeshis working in several sectors in Malaysia.

People-to-people contact has increased and it is reported that many elite Bangladeshi have purchased homes in Malaysia. Many Bangladesh academics work in Malaysian educational institutions.

Soong Siew Hoong, representing the Malaysian Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries visited Bangladesh in May 2013 and said that Malaysian firms were interested in forming joint partnership in investments in construction, food, edible oil, trading and service in Bangladesh

The bilateral trade is heavily titled in favour of Malaysia. In 2011-2012, bilateral trade recorded at $1.61 billion while Bangladesh exported goods to Malaysia worth $79.69, Bangladesh is currently Malaysia’s third largest export destination.

The major exporting items from Bangladesh are knitwear, woven garments, tobacco, home textile, raw jute, jute goods, dry food, agri-products and frozen fish. Malaysian exports to Bangladesh include edible oil (palm oil), vegetable fat, animal products, machinery, mechanical equipment, electrical goods, base metal, wood and wood articles, sulphur, organic chemicals, plastic, textile, and textile articles. Both countries held trade fairs in other’s capitals to promote bilateral trade and investment

Some 84 Malaysian companies have already invested $ 1.77 billion in Bangladesh and there is still enough scope for further investment in areas of edible oil, power generation and food production. Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have set up joint business houses in Malaysia that include shops, restaurants and furniture factories.

Cooperation at international level:

Bangladesh and Malaysia are members of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Commonwealth, and Non-Aligned Movement. Both countries attempt to co-operate and co-ordinate their policies within these organisations.

Malaysia and Bangladesh are members of D-8 Commission which aims at strengthening co-operation among the developing countries. Bangladesh hosted the second Summit of D-8 in 1999. The co-operative efforts between Malaysia and Bangladesh under the umbrella of D-8 have great promise and can be exploited fruitfully to benefit their peoples.

ASEAN operates in a manner that fits comfortably with Bangladesh’s approach. There is an attempt to link co-operation between SAARC and ASEAN through the newly created organisation BIMST-EC.

Concluding remarks:

Bangladesh’s relations with Malaysia will grow in many dimensions in future. There is a broad agreement on many fundamentals underpinning the bilateral relationships. Malaysia is fast becoming as one of the world’s power points in information technology. The real challenge for Bangladesh is to maintain and develop the increasing co-operation in economic and information technology.

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh has demonstrated that both nations continue to seek to broaden and deepen the existing cooperation between Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka as well as to provide an excellent opportunity for leaders of both countries to exchange views and achieve closer understanding on issues of mutual interest. The prime minister’s visit to Bangladesh underlines the importance which Malaysia attaches to its relationship with Bangladesh.

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