A welcome step to utilise the diaspora
The government's decision to formulate a policy with the broad objective of including the Bangladeshi diaspora community in its "march towards development" and ensuring their wellbeing is a step in the right direction. As per the draft Bangladesh National Diaspora Policy-2023, the diaspora includes those "Bangladeshi individuals who obtain citizenship of another country or their citizenship status is under process or are permanently living in another country or were born as Bangladeshi-origin or grew up in another country." At a recent workshop, the expatriates' welfare minister also confirmed the policy objective, underscoring the importance of involving Bangladeshis living abroad in the country's development journey.
It is an unfortunate reality that over the years, there has been a massive amount of "brain drain" out of the country. The policy could, in some ways, reverse that as, if properly implemented, it could encourage those Bangladeshis to share their knowledge and expertise leading to a significant boost in the country's development speed. According to a 2021 study of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), there could be an estimated 2.4 million Bangladeshi diaspora members, with a majority living in the UK and the US. Even if a small portion of them contribute their skills and expertise, it could make a huge difference.
Additionally, the government will be reportedly looking to facilitate investment opportunities for those living abroad, and the policy will act as a tool to encourage Bangladeshi diaspora to send remittance through authorised channels. This, too, could make a massive difference for our economy. However, it is essential that the government establishes an effective formal framework to complement the policy, which would allow Bangladeshis abroad to make the maximum contribution in terms of our financial, economic and entrepreneurial needs.
If we take the case of India, it too has had a similar policy in place for more than two decades. And the reason why it has been successful is because of the foundational blocks that the country's government has managed to lay down over the years. Similarly, we must also develop a strong and transparent system, which makes contributing to the country – whether in financial or intellectual terms – easy, rewarding, and hassle-free.
It must be acknowledged that Bangladeshis living/working abroad are already making a sizeable contribution to our country. It is incumbent upon the authorities to also ensure their well-being. We are pleased that the government has recognised this. However, its track record of doing so via its missions in foreign countries is not very satisfying. We hope that besides finalising this policy, the government will successfully establish an accountable mechanism that can guarantee that this is done much better in the future.