The Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB) established around a decade back to help expatriate workers in difficult times has failed to rise up to their needs when it could have been of great support in time of the pandemic. Reports say that returnee migrant workers are facing difficulties in getting income generating loans from PKB due to lack of proper training on and counselling about receiving and utilising funds. One major obstacle is reportedly the terms and conditions for loans.
The Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment has launched a loan scheme worth Tk 2.0 billion through PKB in mid July, and although around a thousand returnee workers visited PKB branches in their respective areas since then, very few could submit their loan proposals. As a result, the bank is still not set to disburse loans, says a FE report last week.
Reports say the number of returnee workers from various overseas work destinations since April is around 130,000. While many of them have returned empty-handed, a good number of them underwent distressing times being victims of fraud, and there were others who served prison terms for irregularities pertaining to mostly illegal stay or overstay or lack of proper documentation prior to leaving those countries. More workers are expected to return in the coming months, particularly from the Middle-eastern countries. Under the government-announced scheme for soft loans from PKB, workers are entitled to get Tk 100,000 to Tk 500,000 each based on their project proposals for income generating activities. The rate of interest of the loan has been fixed at 4.0 per cent. There is clearly a grey area here, as asking returnee workers to prepare loan proposals to the satisfaction of the PKB officials has come in the way of loan disbursement as a serious deterrent. The aforementioned FE report quoting PKB officials says workers are coming to different branches to take loans, but the majority of them have no idea about submitting proposals to avail of the loans. Even they don't know how they will utilise money in an income-generating scheme. Understandably, many of the returnees have no immediate plan for income generation at home as they will try their best to get back to their workplaces with the situation gradually and hopefully improving. All they can provide is information about their overseas job prospect, and thus the loan they are seeking now is meant to keep them above waters till such opportunity comes. Others who have lost money or suffered indignities may decide to plan for income generating projects. But inadequate or total lack of knowledge about submitting standard proposals is not going to help them.
Observers feel that there should have been brief training for the loan aspirants on various income generating activities that they could choose from in order to firm up plans before asking for loans in a meaningful manner. It is not understood how the loan scheme got launched without taking note of this very important issue. Time has not run out. The PKB can still consider doing so.