Belying predictions of some local as well as multilateral entities, the remittance inflow during the first quarter (July-September) of the current financial year (FY) has recorded a robust growth---48 per cent---over that of the corresponding period of the immediate past FY. This is, in fact, a silver lining on the country's economic horizon that many have been longing to see during one of the most difficult times in human history.
As much as US$ 6.71 billion was sent by the expatriate Bangladeshis during the Q1 of this fiscal. If the current trend persists during the remaining three quarters, the remittance inflow would go up by a record margin, year-on-year basis. Banking experts are listing the 2.0 per cent cash incentive given on the money sent by expatriates and the stable exchange rate as reasons for the higher inflow of remittance during the past few months. There could be some other underlying reasons that are yet to be recognised by the circles concerned.
The remittance earnings are likely to go up further, if the expatriate workers, who are now stranded at home because of the pandemic, can return to the Gulf and other countries. The desperation on their part to go back to workplaces is now visible on the streets of Dhaka. With the situation becoming normal gradually, the demand for workers, skilled or otherwise, would go up, to some extent, in most destinations of the migrant workers. This particular development points to the possibility of a higher inflow of remittances.
The government, the families of migrant workers and other stakeholders in the economy do want the inflow remittance money to go up and add to the country's reserve without a pause. But its spending does also matter. The reserve as of Thursday last was nearly US$ 40 billion. This is seen as more of a reserve buildup. A reasonable part of it, however, needs to be spent on activities that would help buoy up the economy and create jobs. Unfortunately, a large part of the remittance money is being spent on consumption purposes by the families of migrant workers at home. A part of the money is also invested in land or building houses.
The news of a notable rise in the remittance inflow coincides with an unfolding tragedy in the forests of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia. As reported by the international wire services, an unspecified number of Bangladesh nationals are among six hundred illegal migrants who are now languishing in the jungle without food, water, medicine and shelter in severe cold. These people are there to sneak into rich European countries, including Italy. The latest news is that more than 50 Bangladeshis are among a group illegal migrants who have been rounded up by the Slovenian police and sent back to Croatia.
In some past incidents, dozens of Bangladeshi illegal migrants had met a tragic end while trying to cross the Mediterranean and enter affluent European countries by small boats. But that could hardly deter others from making such dangerous journeys. Those who become successful in their bids do also send money back home and contribute to the country's reserve. Others who take up jobs legally do also toil hard. So, remittance income does represent many tragedies and sacrifices. It is, thus, imperative for the government to ensure productive use of the money for the greater benefit of the migrant workers and the economy as a whole.