The need for foreign workers will decrease gradually if the next generation of Bangladesh’s population becomes skilled in technological knowledge, said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi yesterday.
“If we find skilled locals, why will companies hire foreigners? There must be a gap somewhere,” he told journalists at his office in the secretariat when asked about the report from Transparency International Bangladesh unveiled on Wednesday.
About 2.5 lakh foreign nationals now work in Bangladesh, said the report “Employment of Foreigners in Bangladesh: Challenge of Good Governance and Way to Overcome”. Of them, about 1.6 lakh are living and working in Bangladesh on a tourist visa.
“The number was much higher earlier and it is gradually decreasing,” said Munshi, a garment exporter.
He went on to give the example of his own garment factory.
“My factory now has only four foreign workers, which was 14 earlier,” he said, adding that the garment sector, where most of the foreign nationals are employed, are working to cut down on the local skills shortage by setting up by BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology (BUFT) in 2012.
Many competent professionals equipped with the skills needed by the sector are coming out every year, he said.
“We need to educate our own people.”
But until then, foreign nationals need to be hired and they must be done through the proper channels.
“The foreigners must be made to take their salaries through the proper channel and after paying tax,” Munshi said, while urging the National Board of Revenue to come forward to bring all the foreign workers under the tax net.
This will hike their employers’ outlay for them, so they would gradually become less of a cost-smart option, he said.
To evade taxes, salaries of legal foreign workers are shown less in the official documents than their actual income.
For instance, the actual salary of a chief executive officer in the garment sector ranges from $10,000 to $12,000 per month. But in official documents it is shown to be between $3,000 and $3,600.
Furthermore, about one-third the salary of foreign nationals legally working here is paid into the bank accounts; the rest is given in cash, the TIB study found.
The foreign nationals working illegally take their salaries in cash or to their bank accounts abroad, depriving the government of taxes to the tune of $1.35 billion, or Tk 12,000 crore, every year, found the Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based global graft watchdog Transparency International.
“What needs doing urgently is getting the foreigners to pay taxes,” the minister added.