Over 10.2 million Bangladeshi migrant workers work in 174 countries across the world
The budget allocated for the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment has increased in the 2020-21 fiscal year, but the experts think the welfare of migrant workers was not given priority when the Covid-19 situation might cost many migrant workers their jobs and find them in distress.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has proposed Tk641 crore budget for the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment for FY2020-21, up from Tk590 crore in the outgoing fiscal year.
In his budget speech, the finance minister said growth in inward remittances will slow down at the end of this fiscal year because of the pandemic.
Currently, over 10.2 million migrant workers are working in 174 countries across the world.
Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration program, told Dhaka Tribune that the ministry never gets the budget it should, while the country benefits from the foreign remittance significantly.
He also pointed out that a significant chunk of the budget allocated for the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare goes for wages and salaries of the employees. The government contributes a little for the welfare of the migrant workers and returnees.
In this fiscal year, Tk224 crore of the total budget allocated for the ministry will go to wages and salaries.
Shariful said three issues should be given more priority when allocating the budget for this sector —training for people in overseas jobs, reintegration of the returnees, and welfare of migrant workers who are currently employed in different countries.
In the budget of the last fiscal year, an incentive at the rate of 2% on money remitted by expatriate Bangladeshis was announced and it will continue in the current fiscal year.
The finance minister said the objectives were to mitigate the burden of increased expenses in sending foreign remittances and to encourage bringing in foreign remittance through legal channels.
Brac Migration head said the government benefited a lot through this initiative since migrant workers are now sending money legally and the government is receiving a lot more foreign remittance than before. However, he said, if the government sees an increase in foreign remittance, they should use the money for the welfare of the migrant workers.
The minister revealed inward remittances grew significantly during July-May of the 2019-20 fiscal year as $16.56 billion was earned during the period.
Remittance inflow grew by 8.72% to $16.56 billion in 11 months of the outgoing fiscal year, as per Bangladesh Bank data.