An increase in the remittance flow were seen during the latter half of 2020 despite of the COVID outbreak and pandemic. An upward flow was observed despite the predictions of reducing the flows. The migrant workers are among the most affected people of Bangladesh due to the ongoing
COVID-19 pandemic. Sectors like the ready-made garments (RMG), small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and Agriculture were also heavily affected due to this pandemic, but the migrant workers were less salient when it comes to incentives. Despite funds being declared by the government, the dissemination got stuck at the banking level, which we have also noticed in other sectors as well.
Currently, only Expatriate Welfare Bank (Probashi Kalyan Bank) is assigned for this disbursement.
As they do not have enough branches throughout the country, assigning other banks in this process would accelerate the disbursement. Migrants also face issues as they do not have transaction track records as per the bank’s policy. Introducing the remittance flow record as transaction track records for the migrants will help them in availing the incentives in a much precise and easy way, also the practice of formal transaction might expand here.
These observations emerged at the virtual dialogue titled “Recent remittance inflow: Where so much money is coming from?” organised by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh on 17 January 2021.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) delivered the keynote presentation at the dialogue. His presentation focused on the source and flow of remittance. Professor Rahman showed statistically that most remittances are coming from Saudi Arabia (30%) and Malaysia (14.3%). He also showed, there were no distinct changes in the sourcing of the countries instead of an increase in cash flow. So, only high number of migrant workers are not the reason for high remittance flow. The 2% incentives on remittances by the Government reduced informal transactions significantly. The outbreak of mobile banking facilities also introduced around 3% incentives, which also orients in the formal banking sector.
While delivering the introductory remarks, Mr M S Shekil Chowdhury, Chairperson, Centre for Non-Resident Bangladeshis (CNRB) showed his concerns and said that this upward flow of remittance might not stay in the upcoming future despite the 2% incentives. Professor Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, Chairman, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) said increased remittance should be questioned as income has reduced because of COVID. Visa selling and Hajj effect pointed by World Bank also had a considerable contribution to the remittance flow.
She also discussed about the gender twist and stated that females are contributing more in remittance as they mostly work as maids and didn’t really lost their jobs.
Significant number of returnee migrants participated in the dialogue and shared their desire to go back and continue to work as people from other sectors such as with student visa or spouse visa are going back to their respective host countries.
In addition, experts recalling history stated, an increasing in the number of migrants will not always increase the remittance. In the past year, despite the migration rate being low compared to the previous years, an upward flow in remittance were seen especially in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka but a downward flow was observed in case of India. Reason behind this might me the type of works done by the migrants of these region as India who are more oriented in the IT labour market and others are more in construction or cleaning works.
On the other hand, Special Commentator Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman, CPD addressed the migrants as ‘disempowered individuals’ because of their current ongoing situation. Talking about migrants and remittance, he stated that it’s an old issue which is going on for a long time and we still have not reached any sustainable solution regarding this.
Chief Guest at the dialogue, Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, MP, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment,
Government of Bangladesh stated that the speed and trust ensured by the banks were lacking and hence, it created a dependency on the informal transactions. 2% declaration by the Government was a good decision and a slight increase in the percentage would be more beneficial in the future.
Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, Convenor, Citizen’s Platform of Bangladesh agreed to him and suggested making this entire system more sustainable, which would focus on the well-being of the migrant
Public representatives, government officials, migrant workers, state person and media participated in the dialogue and expressed their views and statements.