ABU DHABI //The Bangladeshi prime minister arrived in the capital shortly after noon yesterday to begin a four-day visit that will include a keynote speech at the World Future Energy Summit.
At the summit today, Sheikh Hasina Wazed will discuss how her country is a victim of climate change, including frequent cyclones and floods.
“For which we are not responsible,” noted Nazmul Quaunine, the country’s ambassador to the UAE. “We are the worst victims of climate change, even though we are not the polluters. The speech will be made in support of the campaign for clean energy.”
Over the next few days, Mrs Hasina is expected to meet several UAE leaders to strengthen ties and increase trade.
She was received at the airport yesterday by the Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam al Roumi.
Her first visit was with Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the widow of Sheikh Zayed, founder of the nation. The informal meeting was followed by a lunch, Mr Quaunine said.
Later, Mrs Hasina met with the labour minister, Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash.
Half a million Bangladeshis work in the UAE, mostly in blue-collar jobs. They are the third-largest workforce after Indians and Pakistanis. Last year, they sent US$1.8 billion (Dh6.6bn) in remittances to Bangladesh.
“There are many good things to talk about,” Mr Quaunine said. “But there are some difficulties in some areas, including recruitment process and payment issues. We are hoping that together, we can improve the situation. We have a lot of labourers here, and we are always in touch with the UAE authorities regarding their problems but the issue is that they are primarily hired by the private companies.
“We have a committee to discuss this. She will talk to the Government to create a legal framework for issues such as transportation and compensation of pay.”
A 30-member business delegation from the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry is travelling with the prime minister. The businesspeople are expected to meet members of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry to sign agreements encouraging Emiratis to invest in Bangladesh. Mr Quaunine said Emirati investment in Bangladesh is worth US$3bn, with prominent holdings in ceramics and telecom.
Mr Quaunine said Mrs Hasina’s first official visit to the Emirates is “a great encouragement for non-resident Bangladeshis here.”
Zahoor Alam, the chairman of the non-resident Bangladeshi forum in the UAE, said he was looking forward to meeting the prime minister tomorrow, when she will speak to members of the community at Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School. Mr Alam would like to discuss the opening of more schools for Bangladeshi pupils.
“There is only one school in Abu Dhabi,” Mr Alam said. “Nothing in Dubai or the Northern Emirates yet.”
He said he would also like to bring up the issue of the expatriate workforce.
“I want to tell her to send more skilled workers,” he said. “They should train them before sending them here, so we can ask to implement a minimum wage for them.”