Brac consultation concerned over misuse of migrant workers’ fund
Rabiul Islam, Syed Munazir Hussain

The government merely gives Tk35,000 as transport and burial costs and Tk300,000 as financial assistance to families of each dead migrant

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee Chairman on Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, Anisul Islam Mahmud expressed concern over the misuse of migrant workers’ fund.

The salary of officials of Bangladesh missions abroad is also being given from the fund, said the standing committee chairman at a consultation on “Significance of remittance: poverty alleviation and livelihood development in Bangladesh.”

Brac Migration Programme hosted the discussion at the brac centre auditorium in the city yesterday.

Director of Gender Justice & Diversity and Migration Programme, Brac, Sheepa Hafiza, moderated the programme.

Anisul said: “We have saved Tk5b by cancelling a housing project taken for the Bangladeshi diaspora from the fund of migrant workers. The housing project site was Vatara in the capital.”

Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, the standing committee chairman said salary for regular administrative jobs is also being given from the fund.

He also mentioned that once upon a time money has also been spent from the fund on building schools in villages.

“When we ask for money for labour councillors, the finance ministry becomes hard on us,” Anisul said.

While at an interview with the Dhaka Tribune recently, expatriates’ welfare Secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan said: “We are not getting money from other sources. So we are compelled to spend money from this fund.”

Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund was created with the money from the outgoing migrant workers and attestation fees from Bangladesh mission abroad with a view to carrying out welfare activities of the migrant workers.

The government merely gives Tk35,000 as transport and burial costs and Tk3,00,000 as financial assistance to families of each dead migrant.

Anisul Islam Mahmud underscored the need for technical and vocational education as the demand for skilled migrants is increasing day by day.

He said there is great demand for skilled workers including nurses in European countries, but it is difficult to seize the opportunity as there are shortages of skilled people.

In his address, the Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan expressed concern over the violation of migrant workers’ rights at home and abroad.

He mentioned that although the migrant workers are contributing to the economy by sending remittance a large number of migrant workers are cheated by a section of unscrupulous recruiting agencies.

The policy makers should give attention to these issues, he added.

Zafar suggested that the migrant workers should be provided with proper training and their protection at recipient countries is also needed. Bangladesh earned 14.17b remittance in 2012, according to Bangladesh Bank data.

World Bank lead economist in Dhaka Zahid Hussain said labour migration is indeed a success story for Bangladesh.

He emphasised that the government look into the high migration cost and the risk of fraudulence. He added that maintaining the current growth in remittance was crucial to ensure Bangladesh’s vision of achieving middle income status by 2020.

Bangladesh Bank Executive Director Dasgupta Asim Kumar also spoke at the consultation where he said that BB has been working on improving fund transfer with 8300 branches and 85,000 mobile banking agents across the country. He said that Bangladesh will exceed 15bn in remittance inb the current financial year. He added that it may have exceeded 20bn of all money came through formal channels. Brac Executive Director Mahabub Hossain presented his keynote on “Migration and remittance in Bangladesh: impact on livelihoods and poverty reduction” where he focused on the difference that was created by remittance.

In addition to Brac ED Mahabub Hossain, other key discussants included WB Lead Economist Zahid Hussain, Anisul Islam Mahmud MP, BB ED Dasgupta Asim Kumar, Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan in addition to several other participants from the development sector. 

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