Bangladesh needs Qatar in tackling its energy crisis. By Jubeda Chowdhry

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Bangladesh and Qatar have continuous cooperation in several bilateral aspects including labor migration (8 Lakh Bangladeshi workers and USD 1.3 Billion remittances), Energy cooperation (15 years’ G-2-G LNG agreement), and continuous aid to Rohingya. It continues to buy liquefied natural gas from Qatar and Oman under long-term contracts and imports about four million tonnes of liquefied gas a year. The agreement with Qatar will expire in 2032 and that with Oman will expire in 2029. Qatar is one of the top energy producers. Bangladesh has already a government-to-government LNG deal with Qatar for 15 years. However, the Ukraine crisis, western sanctions on Russia, and subsequent energy price hikes resulted in an Energy crisis in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is currently struggling to cope with a mounting natural-gas demand due to dwindling natural gas production from local gas fields and higher price of LNG on the wayward international market.

Qatar is an oil-rich country in the Middle East. To support its economy the country is largely dependent on foreign labour: 89.5 per cent residents of Qatar are foreign nationals. On the contrary, Bangladesh is one of the largest labour-exporting countries in the world. Approximately 400,000 Bangladeshi expatriates are working there, which is 12.5 per cent of the total inhabitants of Qatar. The oil-rich country is undeniably an important one for Bangladesh's expat and migrant workers.

Qatar Charity runs several schools, orphanages and training centres in Bangladesh. In June 2017, Bangladesh signed an agreement with Qatari company RasGas to receive 2.5 million tonnes of LNG annually for the following 15 years. It is important to notice that the remittance inflow from Qatar in the last five years has reached the $1 billion mark.

As Bangladesh suffers from energy crisis, Qatar would stand beside Bangladesh to meet its increasing demand of energy. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for one more million ton of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year. The Prime Minister met with the country's emir at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha, Qatar on Sunday (March 5) on the sidelines of the 5th United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries 

 . Meanwhile, she wants this fuel. In view of this, the emir of Qatar has assured to provide fuel to Bangladesh. At the end of the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, AK Abdul Momen told this information to the journalists in the briefing.

The foreign minister said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the Emir of Qatar that after the war in Ukraine, we have a big energy problem. We want more fuel. Now Bangladesh imports about 40 containers of fuel annually from Qatar, i.e., 1.8 to 2.5 million tonnes. We will renew what we take. Also, we want more LNG.

Abdul Momen said, responding sincerely to the Prime Minister's request, the Emir of Qatar asked to know how much more Bangladesh wants. We have said, we want 1 million tonnes more, 16-17 more containers.

She said, after the request of Bangladesh, the Emir of Qatar told the Prime Minister that I am giving orders to our energy minister today. Before you (Sheikh Hasina) return home, I will meet you and I will give instructions on what to do in the meantime. I want to help you. Qatar will always stand by Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and Qatar have recently strengthened their bilateral ties. The Qatari businessman and officials have already shown interest to invest in Bangladesh’s energy sector, LPG storage terminals, power and infrastructural sector.

Bangladesh has already pursued Qatar for emergency LNG and extended credit on the supply at a relatively cheaper price. The extended credit on and emergency supply of LNG would help Bangladesh with energy security. Bangladesh which is dependent on imported liquefied natural gas, has been struggling with an energy crisis in recent months. If Bangladesh can get Qatari LNG on a deferred payment basis, it will ease up Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves and help Bangladesh in terms of purchasing other necessary imports which require instantaneous payment. Qatar can cooperate in capacity building in the refinery sector. The OIC membership and Muslim identity may help Bangladesh in this regard.

Bangladesh, a developing country, has now made its mark on the world map by working hard. Bangladesh, like others, also suffers because of the Russia-Ukraine war. Lack of essential fuel is likely to lead to the loss of overseas orders for export-oriented apparel units. Production in other industries is also severely disrupted. A large number of people, especially women workers, may lose their job in such a situation and there will be unrest in society.

Bangladesh has very good relations with all the countries, including the Middle East. It is, therefore, hoped that the international community would play a stronger role in solving the current energy crisis for the sake of development and peace and order.

 

Meanwhile, The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani is very keen on developing the bilateral relations to new heights and he has accepted the invitation from the president of Bangladesh to undertake a visit to Dhaka.

This would be a landmark event in the history of bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Qatar leading to the consolidation of ties, especially in trade and commerce, investment and economic cooperation.

A good number of bilateral instruments -- MoUs and agreements may be signed during the visit of the Emir, which would strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries significantly.

Emir's Bangladesh visit will definitely strengthen bilateral relations and pave the way of Qatari Investment in Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs Qatar. 

The cabinet of Bangladesh has approved recently the draft of a deal to send 1,129 members of the armed forces to Qatar on deputation.  The deal will be automatically renewed after the end of its five-year tenure.The armed forces of the two countries will sign the final deal. Bangladesh and Qatar both are interested in defense and security cooperation now. 

The overall relations suggest that these two countries can be viable partners to each other. Bangladesh is a land of opportunities to a country like Qatar. Bangladesh produces medicines of international standard while Qatar imports medicines from abroad. Qatar has huge opportunities to invest in our hydrocarbon and service sectors. Moreover, since the income taxes were reduced with corporate taxes, investment in Bangladesh will be more beneficial to the country. Bangladesh is enjoying a demographic dividend and both countries can be beneficial from this rare opportunity. In the digital space, Bangladesh is also gaining ground and Qatar can invest in Bangladesh’s IT sector too.

Rather optimistically, Bangladesh’s economy is going to transform itself into a middle-income group. Investing in government bonds is attractive while the currency is stable. Additionally, Bangladesh’s policy governance has been exemplary in recent years. The country has been mapped positively, in terms of Economic, Social, Environment and Human risk successfully to continue its growth momentum. Meanwhile, it is also important for the Bangladesh government to remove all unnecessary bureaucratic red tape concerning foreign investment, especially when the country is yet to establish itself as a safe, secure and business-friendly nation.

Economic conditions and trends of both partners are favourable to boost bilateral cooperation since Qatar regularly invests in potential sectors overseas. While Bangladesh has the goal to be a developed country by 2040, countries like Qatar can directly engage and contribute to Bangladesh’s economic and development activities.

 

 

 

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