Remittance and human resources development (HRD)
Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis have been leaving their homes, seeking a greener pasture abroad- where they will get a job with higher income and greater savings. They are doing so to be able to remit some of that extra income to their family members back home. They want to be part of the more than 7 million Bangladeshi expatriate labor force that are scattered all over the world, but particularly in different countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia. They are encouraged to undertake their hazardous journeys because many of their relatives did so earlier and have since become economic migrants in these countries and also in Europe and North America.
Considering the above evolution, one can only surmise that there has been an increase in remittance because of a better, efficient and regulated handling of remittances from different sources. It also suggests that the migrant work force is beginning to use more formal channels than the previous “Hundi” format to repatriate their savings to Bangladesh. One must in this context note that the fine-tuning of the banking arrangement initiated by our Bangladesh Bank (BB) has worked as an important catalytic factor in our workers switching from the previous informal channels to formal ones.
This process has also gained acceptance because the delivery channel of inward remittances to the beneficiary has improved due to the ever expanding use of mobile banking by commercial banks and their facilitation measures. Another reason for higher remittance flow has been the stable US Dollar-Taka exchange rate. Commenting on this increase, The Bangladesh Bank has also pointed out that it, as part of the moves, is allowing local banks to establish exchange houses and drawing arrangement abroad to assist the inflow of remittances.
Analysts are now hoping that the flow of inward remittances will increase further in the coming months when manpower export to Malaysia and South Korea restarts through private sector channels and labor recruitment resumes in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It would be fitting to note here that the discussions carried out by Prime Minister Hasina in Saudi Arabia have already resulted in the positive lifting of the ban on change of Iqamas (work permits) for expatriates from Bangladesh searching for jobs in that country.
Yes, Bangladesh today, as a result of these developments has become a low-middle income country, has foreign exchange reserves over US Dollar 39 billion and has moved upwards to become the eighth largest recipient of remittances in the world. Nevertheless, there is also the other side of the coin. I am referring here to the horrible aspects that have surfaced over human trafficking.
The world media has highlighted how thousands of poverty stricken people, tempted by criminal middle-men, have undertaken perilous voyages in ramshackle boats, trying to enter Thailand and Malaysia as illegal immigrants. It has been painful to watch the plight of these trafficking victims in the electronic media, their dreams shattered, being rescued from savage detention camps hidden in the coastal jungles bordering the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Apparently, such human trafficking grew in dimension over the last three years and targeted Muslim Rohingyas and their family members trying to escape the harsh discriminatory living conditions in their country- Myanmar -and also Bangladeshis attempting to illegally enter Thailand and Malaysia.
These middle-men criminals, in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia appear to have carried out their human rights violations and nefarious activities basking in the shelter of corrupt politicians and law enforcement personnel. It would be fitting to note here that senior law enforcement personnel, local government officials and corrupt politicians involved in such matters in Thailand and Malaysia have been relieved of their duties and taken into judicial custody.
It has been reported that the scenario with regard to Malaysia may be on the mend. First came the news on 27June in ‘The Bernama’, a state owned newspaper in Malaysia that the Malaysian government, according to Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, is likely to launch a special drive against illegal foreign workers working in that country. It was subsequently reported that after this effort, there would be a move to recruit 500,000 low-skilled migrant workers from Bangladesh. This would be done under an agreement called Business-to-Business (B2B) mechanism that will use private recruitment/employment agencies. Experts think that this might reduce illegal human trafficking from Bangladesh to Malaysia. This will be a departure from the earlier agreed Government-to-Government process. Analysts think that the association of the private sector in both countries will assist the process. We have to wait and see.
Nevertheless, one needs to also give serious attention to the development of semi-skilled and skilled work-force in Bangladesh. We have to move forward as have Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. This will be possible only if we take the right steps to improve not only quality in our educational system but also associated skills. Skill development initiatives and vocational training need to be introduced from the secondary stage in our schools.
In this context it was encouraging to note that Prime Minister Hasina during her discussion in Dhaka with Yanagisawa Kyoei, the President of International Manpower Development of Japan underlined the need for bilateral cooperation between the two countries in developing the skill factor in Bangladeshi youth. It was reiterated that development of skills would also foster the prospect of entrepreneurship among the Bangladeshis.
It is understood that 1,000 Bangladeshi technical interns will be receiving training in Japan under the apprenticeship programme. They will each be given a financial scholarship during their training tenure. It has also been hinted that those technical interns who successfully complete their three-year participation in the training programme will also receive resources for setting up business ventures after they return to Bangladesh. One must not forget the multiplier effect of such assistance.
It is clear that the migration potential with regard to Bangladesh will continue to grow. Economists have termed this as normal- given the fact that a transfer is slowly taking place within our rural hinterland where farmlands with low productivity agriculture are moving towards higher productivity industry.
However, this evolving dynamics, which took place also in Philippines, India and in Sri Lanka were taken advantage of. Their authorities addressed this evolving scenario and invested in development of skilled manpower. This is now paying dividends for them.
We also need to focus and see how citizens from these countries have subsequently made inroads especially in the construction, health, banking, management and services sectors. They appear to have succeeded because they initiated programmes to impart skill training at the grassroots level. We also have to diversify in a constructive manner and make inroads in the semi-skilled and skilled sectors.
Low skilled jobs will always be available but vocational training in electrical repairs, para-medical assistance, in plumbing, in accounting will help us to break through the glass ceiling. This should be undertaken irrespective of gender. We also need to learn foreign languages- English, Arabic, Malaysian, Korean and Japanese. This additional factor will make all the difference. It also has to be a collective effort. If we can follow this constructive path in the development of our human resources, we can then avoid shattered dreams that result from relying on criminals who make fortunes through human trafficking.