Shaikh Hasina interacted with Bangladeshi expats at an open meeting in Abu Dhabi on the last day of her four-day visit to the UAE. She urged them to use legal channels to transfer remittances back home. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Nearly 700 Bangladeshi inmates currently serving their prison terms in the UAE will soon be able to complete the remainder of their sentences back home, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina Wajed said in the capital on Tuesday evening.

On the last day of her four-day visit to the UAE, the head of state also called upon non-resident Bangladeshis to abide by local laws and regulations, and to use legal channels to transfer remittances back home.

“We are discussing the transfer of Bangladeshi inmates, and this shall be resolved soon. But I call upon you all to follow the rules and the regulations, the culture and the norms of all the countries that you visit and reside in,” Hasina said.

She was speaking at an open meeting with non-resident Bangladeshis, where she addressed common concerns of the nearly 800,000-strong Bangladeshi diaspora in the UAE.

The prime minister called her trip to the UAE — her first official visit after a landslide election victory in December 2018 — extremely ‘successful’, with promises being made of investment in Bangladesh by top businessman and companies based in the country, including the Lulu Group and NMC Healthcare.

Using illegal ‘hundi’ channels poses a risk to remitters, who should not be willing to lose their hard-earned money through such channels ... At the end of the day, our banks today provide secure electronic money transfers.

- Shaikh Hasina, Bangladesh Prime Minister

“Your contributions to the country are notable and significant, and we are working to ensure that every poisha (100 poisha equals one taka in Bangladesh, the country’s legal tender) is used for the welfare of the people,” Shaikh Hasina said.

She highlighted the establishment of three banks that allow expatriates to transfer money and even take loans for investment without collateral.

“We have a hundred economic zones coming up, and when you return, we encourage you to invest in our booming economy,” the premier added.

Responding to queries from Iftikhar Hossain, chairman of UAE-based Bangladeshi welfare association, the Bangabondhu Association Central Committee, Shaikh Hasina also said incentives were under consideration to make legal money transfer more attractive for remitters.

“Using illegal ‘hundi’ channels poses a risk to remitters, who should not be willing to lose their hard-earned money through such channels. Even if we provide a one taka incentive, illegal channels can provide two takas. At the end of the day, our banks today provide secure electronic money transfers that are completed in a matter of a few hours, and [these should be the preferred choice],” Hasina said.

To that end, Mohammad Imran, Bangladeshi ambassador to the UAE, said that waivers of the Dh15 remittance fee are currently being discussed.

Bangladeshi expats meet with Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina during a reception in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday -

Hasina also spoke warmly of her meetings with UAE leaders, including with Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Her Highness Shaikh Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairperson of General Women’s Union.

“They have given me a very positive outlook of our bilateral relations. And as a country, we have progressed so much … This year, our navy vessel was docked at the port and participated in the International Defence Exhibition,” she announced to cheers from the audience.

MoUs between UAE and Bangladesh

Mohammad Imran, Bangladeshi ambassador to the UAE, confirmed the signing of four MoUs during the visit.

The first, signed between DP World and the Bangladesh Shipping, will set up a port, dry port and industrial park in Bangladesh. The second, an agreement between the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) and the Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry of Bangladesh, will supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Bangladesh on a long-term basis, while developing a land-based LNG receiving terminal in the southern Bangladesh seaport in Payra.

Shaikh Ahmad Dalmook Al Maktoum from Dubai signed the third agreement with the Power Development Board of Bangladesh to set up an integrated 800-1,000-megawatt LNG power plant, as well as a 100-megawatt solar power plant. Al Maktoum also formalised another agreement with the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority to set up a special economic zone in Matarbari.