In the economies of migrant workers sending and accepting countries, the words ‘migration’ and ‘development’ are closely related. In fact, one is not only complementary to another, but both are also important for overall development of the country.
We are aware of the important role these two words play in the development process of the present world. If there is no migration, we have every doubt about the development that we see across the whole world today might not happen. On one hand, the countries which lacked the workforce could not develop; on the other hand, we could see political and economic instability in many countries due to unemployment. We cannot deny the necessity of migration for the development of a country. Actually, many countries have developed due to migration.
South Asian countries, particularly Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are keeping their economy rolling by earning foreign currency from their people working in many countries of the world. As a result, the families of the migrant workers are financially better and country’s economic development is also geared up. In other words, remittances sent by migrant workers have become the main source of capital for the state treasury. Besides, a migrant worker returns not only with his savings but with the capital of experience. Though their earnings are used for different purposes rightly or wrongly, but the answer to the question of how much of their work-experience is used is not very satisfactory.
We know that due to lack of a planned remittance management, the money sent by migrant workers is not properly used. Most of this hard earned money is spent in such sectors that do not produce any financial benefit or income. That is, remittance is mostly used in the unproductive sectors. Not only the migrant workers’ families but the economy of the whole country could be changed, if a planned utilisation of this hard earned foreign currency could be ensured. And to do that, we must give every migrant worker an appropriate prescription considering his financial, social and personal status. That prescription might contain his responsibilities for his family as well as country’s economic development. Besides, it is very important to formulate a policy that would attract the migrant workers to be involved in the country’s developmental flow. And the government should give priority in taking these measures.
Studies in several countries, especially in Mexico and the Philippines, have shown that the remittance receiving families were able to acquire new assets as well as invest in business or economic sector. In Bangladesh, the scenario is similar. Though the remittance sent by migrant workers increases the income of their families, but it somehow helps to increase the overall growth of the country. However, no matter what we say, the contribution of remittance to the economic development of the country depends on the transparency, performance and overall economic environment existing in the domestic institutions of that country. In other words, how much development could be done utilising the remittance depends on the leadership and the application of policies regarding utilisation of the money received as remittance.
Many migrant workers sending countries, like us, are bound to take foreign loans or grants for various development projects. However, the remittance should not be considered as a substitute of any foreign loan, grant or financial aid, though remittances may reduce the country’s financial dependency on foreign countries if appropriate plans are taken. Since the money received in this sector is entirely personal, therefore this money should be used in financially profitable activities or institutions. And the authority would be exercised by them whose remittance is invested there. In this case, the government will guide the investors through proper planning and inspiration. I am confident that the people and the country would be greatly benefited from this.
Economic limitations can also be overcome through the introduction of migrant bonds or remittance-backed securities. I think it will facilitate the implementation of major development projects of the country. The governments of the remittance receiving countries including Bangladesh may like to consider this idea. Besides, government or non-government organisations of developing countries can use remittance as a security while collecting money from international capital markets. Therefore, remittance may be one of the main sources of funding for any development project or large scale industry in the country. In 1951, Israel released bonds for its migrant workers and the amount of money deposited in that fund exceeded 35 billion US dollars some few years back. I do not know whether there is any such fund in any other countries of the world.
By sharing an idea, I would like to finish my writing. Countries that receive significant amount of remittances from their migrant workers can form a ‘National Development Fund’, which could be used for funding the major development projects or heavy industries. Each migrant worker will deposit a certain amount of money from his savings every month. However, a migrant worker may like to subscribe more than the fixed rate, if he/she desires so. They will be the owners of those projects or organisations where their money would be invested. Thus, economic dependence on other countries or organisations, especially loans and aid, will be greatly reduced. Besides, migrant workers will be able to use their skills if they are employed in those organisations on their return home.
It’s true that the remittance sender or recipient holds the right to use the money. In reality, it is happening. But if that money is invested in a more profitable sector under the management or supervision of the government, then migrant workers would be encouraged to subscribe to this fund.
And this investment will not only improve the financial condition of the remittance receiving families, but will accelerate the pace of economic development of the country. However, it needs to formulate necessary policies specifying attractive benefits in order to encourage remittance receiving families. The government has to take the initiative in this regard.
About eight million Bangladeshis are working abroad and every day new workers are going abroad, many workers are also corning back. Thus the number of our migrant workers has been increasing day by day. Considering this situation, if we assume that a worker can subscribe at least US$ 10 a month, then the total amount will be US$80 million dollars a month, or about one billion dollars a year. I believe that if Bangladesh creates such a ‘National Development Fund’, then major development projects of the country could be implemented with that money. Bangladesh will not have to go door to door for foreign loan and be bound by different terms and conditions. As a result, not only the economic development of the country will happen, but would make us a self-reliant and dignified nation. If the present government is interested in creating such a fund, necessary steps should be taken without further delay. However, the government of Bangladesh may also think about other issues mentioned here.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary