Flawless incentives can boost remittance further

Economists, migrant experts say

Staff Correspondent

18 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Remittance inflow unpredictably soared in the country amid corona despite fear of a slump, but the migrant workers, one of the most Covid-19 hit segment, drew less importance in bailout incentives, economist and migration experts observed on Sunday.

The 2 percent cash incentives on remittance has helped increase the inflow, but the fund disbursement should be made faster with allowing more banks and branches to deal with the matter, according to them

These observations came at the virtual dialogue titled: “Recent remittance inflow:  Where so much money is coming from,” organised by the Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh

Despite funds for remittance being declared by the government, the dissemination got stuck at the banking level. Currently, only Expatriate Welfare 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, they said.

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 expanding the practice of formal transaction, according to analysts.

Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), in his presentation showed that 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 is not the reason for high remittance flow,” he said, adding that the 2 percent incentives on remittances by the government reduced informal transactions significantly.

The outbreak of mobile banking facilities also introduced around 3 percent incentives, which also orients in the formal banking sector, he said.

Expressing concern, M S Shekil Chowdhury, Chairperson of Centre for Non-Resident Bangladeshis (CNRB), aid this upward flow of remittance might not stay in the upcoming future despite the 2 percent incentives.

Prof 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  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.

CPD Chairman Prof Rehman Sobhan 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.

Barrister Anisul Islam Mahmud, Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, said the speed and trust ensured by the banks were lacking that created a dependency on the informal transactions.

The 2 percent declaration by the government was a good decision and a slight increase in the percentage would be more beneficial in the future, he pointed out.

Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, Convener of 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 workers.