According to Bangladesh Bank data, Bangladesh received $2.47 billion as remittance in FY20 from the United Arab Emirates
While a sharp rise in inbound remittance is a relief for Bangladesh's economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the decline in remittance inflow from some countries is also a big concern for the country.
In the fiscal year 2019-20, the country’s remittance inflow hit a new record of $18.20 billion, up by 10.87% compared to FY 2018-19. On the other hand, in July, Bangladesh received $2.60 billion in remittance from expatriates, up by 62.74% compared to $1.59 billion in the same period last year.
Amid the record foreign currency received from Bangladeshi migrant workers, remittance inflows from five countries, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Italy and Bahrain, witnessed a decline.
According to Bangladesh Bank data, Bangladesh received $2.47 billion as remittance in FY20 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the second largest remittance source, down by 2.67% or over $68 million compared to $2.54 billion in the last fiscal.
On the other hand, Bangladesh received $1.37 billion from Kuwait, the fourth largest remittance sending country, which was 6.22% down compared to $1.46 billion earlier.
Bangladesh’s inbound remittance from Italy declined by 7.74% to $699 million, which was $758 million in the previous year.
Remittance from Qatar also saw a fall of $4.31 million or 0.42% to 1.02 billion, while Bangladeshi migrants in Bahrain sent $437 million, which was down by 7%, compared to $470 million in the same period a year ago.
The decline in remittances was observed in the months of March, April and May, when these countries went through strict lockdowns and working hours fell significantly.
What does the decline mean?
This decline indicates that in the coming months, Bangladesh may see a further decline in remittance inflow as over 60,000 migrants have returned home from these countries.
The concern is these countries contribute 33.66% share to the country’s remittances. As many as 4.27 million people are employed in the top five countries, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).
As of December of 2019, 2.37 million, or 18.68% people were working in the UAE, while 880,000 or 6.36% people were working in Qatar and 630,000 or 4.95% of migrants were in Kuwait.
Besides, 410,000 or 3.23% of migrants were working in Bahrain and 55,520 or 0.44% of migrants were working in Italy.
More than one crore Bangladeshi expatriates are working in 168 countries around the world, as per BMET data.
Over 60,000 migrants returned home from these five countries amid the pandemic, while a good number of workers are on their way back home.
As per Ministry of Home Affairs data, 450,000 expatriates returned home before restrictions were imposed on international travel.
Of them, 37,321 migrants returned from the UAE, 13,865 from Qatar, 6,120 from Kuwait, 3,554 from Bahrain and 2,703 from Italy.
There are fears of more migrants returning from those countries, when the travel ban is lifted, as a good number of people have lost jobs.
Expatriates in these countries are in a multi-dimensional crisis amid the pandemic, with several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, saying some migrants need to be brought back to Bangladesh, said Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration Programme.
At least 653 Bangladeshi migrants have died from coronavirus so far in six countries of the Middle East, he said.
Shariful Hasan stated that 122 were Bangladeshis among a total of 328 people who died in the UAE owing to the pandemic virus, which might be another reason for the decline in remittance earnings from the UAE.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, World Bank, Dhaka Office former lead economist Zahid Hussain said that remittance earnings declined in such countries where expatriates were in more trouble and most had lost their jobs.
Most Bangladeshi migrants are working in Middle Eastern countries. Expatriates in these countries have lost their jobs due to the fall in oil prices caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
Under the worst-case scenario of Covid-19 pandemic impact, Bangladesh’s remittances could fall by 27.8% in 2020, as job losses mounted and employers trimmed payrolls, says Asian Development Bank (ADB).
During the global financial crisis in 2009, which resulted in a 2.7% decline in overall remittance inflows to Asia and the Pacific, Bangladesh’s remittances received by households declined on average by 19.3%.
Who keeps the remittance afloat in FY20?
In FY20, Bangladesh received more than $1.78 billion as remittance over the previous fiscal year. Four countries --- Saudi Arabia, the USA, the UK and Oman --- contributed the most to the gain.
Of the total amount, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) solely contributed $905 million.
Remittance from KSA rose by 29% to $4.02 billion in FY20 against $3.11 billion in FY19.
The United States contributed $560.54 million and the expats of the country sent $2.40 billion, up by 30.41% compared to $1.84 billion in the previous fiscal year.
On the other hand, the United Kingdom and Oman contributed $190 million and $175 million through remittances of $1.36 billion and $1.24 billion respectively.