Since January this year, some 3.5 lakh migrant workers have come back home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In order to help these returnee workers, the government is giving them a reintegration loan of Tk200 crore at 4% interest.
However, only 14% of the returnees have received the loan and one-fifth of the receivers found the loan useful for them, according to a rapid study conducted by Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP). Notably, around 80% of the returnee migrant workers want to reintegrate in Bangladesh.
The chief goal of the loan distribution is not met due to lack of manpower, communication, promotion and a very short grace period for loan repayment, says the study.
Lack of manpower, communication and promotion
Khalid Mia, a returnee migrant worker from Narsingdi, went to Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB) to get a loan.
However, he found the entire process challenging as he could discuss very little with the bank officials about it. He came back with the guideline only which he barely could decode.
Later, it took around two months for him to get the loan sanctioned and start his business.
The research says approximately 37% of returnee workers do not know about this loan and Anjana Rani is one of them.
"I have a family to feed but I am not earning for the last six months. If I knew about the loan, it would have been helpful for me," she said.
Tight grace period
The receivers of reintegration loans will enjoy a grace period ranging from one month to one year for its repayment.
Rakib Hossain (pseudonym), a recipient of clothing business loan in Narsingdi, has become worried over the loan repayment so much so that he has decided to sell a piece of his land.
"This loan has become a burden on me. I will have to start paying back right after one month of receiving the loan. How can I bear Tk10,000 as reimbursement after taking care of my family?"
"So, I have decided to pay it back immediately. At least, I will be able to be spared of the interest rate," said Rakib.
Another loan recipient, Mokarram Hossain from Munshiganj, said it is a loan to help the existing business flourish.
"I had a running business and enough assets to show against my loan so it has actually helped me. Yet, I think the rules need to be relaxed a little bit so that more migrants can be covered in the facility," Mokarram suggested.
What PKB says
Against all these complaints, a PKB branch official in Narsingdi, wishing anonymity, blamed inadequate manpower and some other issues.
He said the loan processing has become tough as they are working as both consultants and government officials. Hence, it is taking time in sanctioning the loan.
The official also observed that the returnee migrant workers, who are not educated enough, are facing troubles, losing interest in applying for the loan. And, a few of them are also not aware of it whatsoever.
He also disclosed that, till now, around 500 returnee migrants have visited their branch office but they only could sanction loans to 20 of them due to address issues by migrants.
He reckoned if PKB recruits more people into the process or engages local volunteers for its promotion in rural areas, the loan might bring a more fruitful result.
Abnus Jahan, managing director (additional charge) of PKB, admitted the issue of manpower shortage that has created a communication gap.
"However, we are trying to solve this problem as soon as possible and also recruiting more people at PKB. We have initiated delegation of power recently. So, hopefully sanctioning loans will not be delayed anymore," Abnus explained.
Till 9 December 2020, around Tk7.63 crore has been disbursed among 384 returnee migrant workers, he said, expressing hope that this number will double soon.
About the short grace period, he said, "We are trying our best to help returnee migrants. Therefore, we are revising policies. If we find any issue over the grace period, we will revise that too very soon."