Mathbaria coasting on remittance | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 25, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:22 AM, February 25, 2020

Mathbaria coasting on remittance

Migrant workers from upazila send home about Tk 300cr a year

Mathbaria upazila inside Barishal's Pirojpur district can be a good example of how remittance can help an economy grow.

The 353 square kilometre upazila has always been depending on the production of rice. Mathbaria's aman acreage was 20,100 hectares this year, which is about one-third the paddy produced in the belt.

But it was tough to live life through farming in a natural disaster-prone zone like this. Local people were frantically looking for an alternative source of earnings and then remittance came to the rescue.

It all started with the journey of 10 people to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 45 years back. They were the first group of people to go abroad to earn their living under state-to-state arrangement.

The 10 worked in a drainage project in the Western Asian country and started living there permanently. Years later, they began taking their relatives to the kingdom as workers.

Now, local people believe about 50,000 inhabitants of the upazila of nearly 3 lakh people live in Saudi Arabia. However, any official data on it was not available.

In Pirojpur district, Mathbaria upazila receives the highest amount of remittance, said Mohammad Sanaullah, manager of Rupali Bank's Mathbaria branch.

Migrant workers remit Tk 225 crore to Mathbaria every year through 19 branches of different banks, he added.

Another Tk 100 crore also come to the upazila every year through the illegal channels, said another banker requesting anonymity.

For Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia is the highest remittance sending nation in the world.

Migrant workers living in the second largest country in the Arab world remitted $3.1 billion in fiscal 2018-19 to Bangladesh, while the UAE came in second with $2.5 billion and the US third with $1.8 billion.

In January alone, $321.24 million came from Saudi Arabia, according to data from the Bangladesh Bank.

"My brother was in the first lot of 10 people who went to Saudi Arabia free of cost as a top officer in 1975. It opened a scope for me to go and get established there," said Harun Ur Rashid Howlader.

Howlader left his job in Bangladesh Rifles (now Border Guard Bangladesh) and also moved to Saudi Arabia in 1983.

"I helped a lot of people to migrate to Saudi Arabia from my upazila and other parts of the country. All of my relatives have at least once gone to the kingdom."

Of the seven upazilas in Pirojpur, Mathbaria is the largest one that covers about one-fourth the total area.

The upazila with 66 per cent literacy rate is also the most expensive town to live in the district and one of the costliest ones in Bangladesh.

In a gap of 30 years, the price of land in Mathbaria increased more than 15 times. One decimal of land is now sold at Tk 40-50 lakh there, which is nearly four times that in any of the upazilas inside Pirojpur.

The prices of daily commodities and house rent are also higher in the zone. The rent of a house for a small family may hit Tk 7,000 in Mathbaria, which is twice as much as in other upazilas.

The ever-increasing remittance sent by the migrant workers has been enabling the local people to live in an expensive place like Mathbaria.

Like Harun, many have seen a rise in their economic condition by going abroad.

At least one member of every family in the upazila now lives abroad, said Md Nuruzzaman Talukder from the upazila's Gulishakhali village.

"But the highest number of people live in Saudi Arabia," said Talukder, who lived in the kingdom nation from 1992 to 2008 and later started doing business in Mathbaria.

Remittance has helped Talukder make his fortune like many in the upazila. He now owns two houses in Dhaka's Kalyanpur and Mohammadpur and even a brickfield along with other businesses. 

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