Leading economists and policy analysts have rejected the idea of providing Rohingyas access to local labour market in Cox’s Bazar, and suggested their quick repatriation to ease pressure on Bangladesh.
They said the international community should take responsibility as long as Rohingyas stay here, because their presence has already posed serious threat to the local environment and host communities.
The comments came after a presentation indicating the impact on wages if Rohingyas are integrated into the local labour market, provided there are investments in Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram.
“If the labour market of Chattogram is considered, it can absorb Rohingyas without major fall in wage rates,” said Dr Paul Dorosh of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
However, leading economist Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud said the issue is not whether there will be economic gains if Rohingyas are integrated into the local labour market.
“Rather the issue is capacity, which we don’t have,” he said on the sideline of a seminar titled “Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals” jointly organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and IFPRI at a hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
Bangladesh is a densely populated country with limited land and natural resources. Due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, arable land is shrinking very fast, he said.
Recent research says critical biodiversity areas in Cox’s Bazar face a grave risk. Already, more than 2,000 hectares of forest have been lost due to the influx of some 7,50,000 Rohingyas since August 2017.
Besides, Rohingyas and Bangladeshis have a lot of differences in social terms. For example, almost all Bangladeshi girls go to schools and our birth rate is low, just the opposite in case of Rohingyas, he said.
“The only solution is repatriation; the international community has to come forward,” Mahmud said.
BIDS consultant Dr Asaduzzaman said Rohingyas getting access to labour market in Chattogram will mean they have access to entire Bangladesh.
The impact could be zero in terms of wage drop. “But, what is its foreign policy implications for us?” he said.
According to research by BIDS and IFPRI last year, Rohingyas have almost universal access to food assistance at the camps. Children’s nutritional status has improved compared to 2017, but under-nutrition remains unacceptably high.
Addressing the inaugural session, Planning Minister Abdul Mannan said Bangladesh faces a huge pressure in sheltering and taking care of Rohingyas.
BIDS Director General KAS Murshid and World Food Programme Country Representative Richard Ragan, among others, spoke at the seminar.