Remittance from KSA falls by 17pc
Remittance earnings from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- Bangladesh's biggest overseas labour market -- declined by 17.10 percent in last fiscal year amid growing concern over using unauthorised channels such as hundi by remitters.
The drop in remittance earnings came even as Bangladesh saw a 2.8 percent remittance growth in last fiscal year.
The $3.7 billion inward remittance that Bangladesh received in FY 2022-2023 from the Gulf country is also 34.19 percent less than the $5.7 billion received in FY 2020-2021, according to Bangladesh Bank data.
In FY 2021-2022, remittance sent by Bangladeshi migrant workers from KSA stood at $4.5 billion, shows the central bank data.
Despite having a surge in migration of new workers to the Gulf country in past couple of years, this gradual decline in inward remittance from the country is alarming.
The government needs to enhance its effort to rein in unauthorised channels like hundi to increase remittance. Remittance through formal channel will increase if gateway of hundi is stopped.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), nearly 13 lakh migrant workers went to Saudi Arabia for employment between January 2021 and June this year, compared to 8.18 lakh workers going there in the previous three years.
In past 30 months, 54.65 percent of Bangladesh's total 2.3 million migrant workers went to Saudi Arabia, BMET data shows.
While addressing a seminar at the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh in June, Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohammad Javed Patwary pointed on hundi being instrumental behind decline in inward remittance.
Remittance from Saudi Arabia will have significant growth if it is sent through authorised banking channel averting hundi, the ambassador said, according to a Facebook post of the embassy.
He urged about 28 lakh Bangladeshi nationals currently residing in Saudi Arabia to generate awareness against hundi at community-level and take the opportunity of 2.5 percent cash incentive while sending money through banking channel.
The ambassador also said the embassy is working to stop "visa trading" to reduce migration cost and stressed on sending more skilled workers to Saudi Arabia to increase remittance.
"Remittance flow will increase if skilled workers are sent," he added.
Remittance sent by Bangladeshi migrant workers is considered to be one of the key pillars of the country's economic progress.
In last fiscal year, Bangladesh received $21.6 billion in inward remittance compared to $21.03 billion received in the previous fiscal.
In the outgoing fiscal, Saudi Arabia generated highest 17.42 percent of Bangladesh's total inward remittance, followed by USA (16.29 percent), the UAE (14.03 percent), UK (9.62 percent), and Kuwait (7.19 percent).
Since 1976 till June this year, Bangladesh sent about 1.53 crore migrant workers abroad for employment, shows BMET data.
Of them, 55.07 lakh or 35.79 percent went to KSA, it says.
Talking with this newspaper over phone, Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of Warbe Development Foundation, said the government needs to enhance its effort to rein in unauthorised channels like hundi to increase remittance.
Remittance through formal channel will increase if gateway of hundi is stopped, he added.
Saiful also said Bangladesh government needs to send more skilled workers to Saudi Arabia and monitor whether new migrant workers there are getting promised job.
Also, the government should look into whether migrants are returning home empty-handed from Saudi Arabia, he said, stressing the need for a comprehensive database on the returnees.
Shakirul Islam, chairperson of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program, suggested that the government may opt to increase the cash incentive from the existing 2.5 percent rate to attract more remitters to use banking channel.