Experts discuss remittance flow trend
- 2% incentive boosted remittance in recent months
- More incentives needed to increase remittance in legal channel
- Bangladesh must strengthen overseas labour market diplomacy
- Lack of policy hindering mobilisation of migrant resources
- Migrant empowerment is a must to solve their problems
- Loan disbursement for returnee migrants should be easier
Sustainable migration is needed to maintain the current increasing trend of remittance inflow, experts said, but they also doubt this upsurge will continue next year.
The major reasons behind this increasing trend in recent months is the 2% cash incentive introduced by the government for remitters using the legal channel, they said at a virtual discussion titled "Recent remittance inflow: Where is so much money coming from?"
A World Bank projection had earlier mentioned that Bangladesh would witness 25% less remittance income in 2020 compared to 2019. Defying this grim forecast, the country has been enjoying resurgent flows of remittance in recent months.
Bangladeshis abroad sent home $19.69 billion during the January-November period of 2020, according to a report by the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU).
At the programme organised by the Citizen's Platform for SDG, Bangladesh, RMMRU Chairperson Tasneem Siddiqui said, "The remittance flow is too unpredictable for me to comment on.
"But, a high remittance flow does not mean that the migrants are in good shape. Because, we found that around 61% dependent families did not receive any remittance from March to June last year."
As so many people could not go abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it could have a negative impact on next year's remittance flow, the RMMRU had projected last month.
Centre for Policy Dialogue's (CPD) Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan said the introduction of a 2% incentive for sending remittances through the legal channel was a very positive step.
He, however, said, "It has been 45 years since overseas employment started in Bangladesh, but the nation has not found any policy or financial instruments to collectively mobilise the migrant resources.
"There are no financial vehicles where they can make satisfactory investments from their savings and get permanent returns. We can create some collective resource mobilisations so that individual remittances can be converted into major investments in the long term."
Prof Sobhan emphasised on creating diaspora bonds where migrants can invest, and suggested using them in mega projects such as the Padma Bridge.
He also recommended generating investments through mutual funds and special bonds, which would be made available to migrant groups so that they can have a permanent source for generating income.
Focusing on the empowerment of migrants, the eminent economist said, "The individual migrants are disempowered. If we compare them with RMG owners and exporters, we would see that they have major political power in the country, and are represented in parliament and cabinet.
"But no migrant is in the parliament, and they cannot participate in the policy-making level. This issue has to be addressed. How do we really convert these disempowered migrants into a collective role?"
He then recommended, "We have to create collective organisations from these disempowered people, so that they can raise their work-related issues."
Anisul Islam Mahmud, chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, recommended increasing the incentive for sending remittance.
Mustafizur Rahman, a Distinguished Fellow of the CPD, said the stock migrants and flow migrants are important to the remittance flow. "If the number of stock migrants decrease in the coming days, remittance would be impacted negatively."
Stocks are defined as "the total number of international migrants present in a given country at a particular point in time," while the migration flows are "the number of migrants entering or leaving a country or region during a specific period of time."
Syed Mahbubur Rahman, CEO of Mutual Trust Bank, said the tax exemption in some countries for the diaspora have played a role in the remittance flow.
MS Shekil Chowdhury, chairperson of the Centre for Non-Resident Bangladeshis, said, "If covid-19 continues, the current remittance flow would not be sustained for more than three to four months. We have to strengthen our overseas labour market diplomacy."
Meanwhile, Dr Md Mustafizur Rahman, labour counselor of Bangladesh embassy in Qatar, said, "The economy of gulf countries is gradually getting revived. So, I do not think that our labour market would be very bad in the coming days."
Incentives for returnee migrants inaccessible
Experts at the event said returnee migrant workers were less salient when it comes to incentives.
They added that despite funds being declared by the government, the dissemination got stuck at the banking level, which also have been noticed in other sectors as well.
Currently, only the Expatriate Welfare Bank (Probashi Kallyan 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, experts said.
Experts also mentioned that 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.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, a Distinguished Fellow of the CPD, moderated the event, while WARBE Development Foundation's Chairman Syed Saiful Haque, and Head of Brac Migration Programme Shariful Hasan spoke at the programme among others.