It is a matter of concern that the remittances sent in by Bangladeshis working abroad during the July-February period have fallen by 17 per cent from the remittances of the corresponding period last fiscal. And last month’s remittances (USD 936.2 million) have been the lowest in the last five years.
Despite the instability in the labour market abroad, the number of Bangladeshis going overseas on employment has increased. However, the volume of remittance has decreased rather than increased. Experts attribute this fall in remittance to the economic slump in the Middle East, where most of the workers go, and also due to the informal ‘hundi’ system of money transfer. Laws have been enacted to stop this illegal means of sending in money from outside, but the application of the law has been weak. Bangladesh Bank doesn’t seem to have been able to tackle this effectively.
If any country of employment cuts down on its recruitment of workers, it is not possible for the manpower exporting country to do anything about the situation. But it is not difficult to stop the illegal transfer of money. There needs to be accountability regarding steps taken by the concerned authorities to deal with the matter. This is to be ensured by the central bank. The government has to step up its economic diplomacy to find new labour markets and to dispel the difficulties in the existing ones.
Ups and downs in the remittance flow are nothing unusual, but for the last few years it has taken a nose dive. Remittance doesn’t only depend on the number of overseas workers, the amount they earn or their saving habits. It also depends on their propensity to remit their savings home. Unless the investment environment is attractive, why will the workers send their hard earned earnings back to the country?
Remittances pay a vital role in employment within the country, investment and keeping the foreign exchange reserves stable. Remittances are also considered an important tool in maintaining the trend in development and meeting the sustainable development goals of 2013. There is no alternative to keeping up a steady flow of remittance from abroad.