Remittance earnings declined in such countries where expatriates were in more trouble and most lost their jobs
Remittance, a lifeline of the country’s economy, declined from the top countries in the fourth quarter of last year due to the global Covid-19 pandemic that negatively affected migration.
Bangladeshi expatriates sent $6.23 billion in remittances during the October-December quarter of last year, down 7.17 per cent from the previous quarter, according to a quarterly report of the central bank.
Remittance inflow from top countries, including Saudi Arabia -- the largest remittance source -- UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Italy, and Singapore witnessed a decline in the fourth quarter.
Remittance earnings declined in such countries where expatriates were in more trouble and most lost their jobs, said Zahid Hussain, former lead economist at the World Bank Dhaka Office.
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 added.
From October to December last year, Bangladesh received $1,453.14 million as remittance from Saudi Arabia, down 9.97 per cent from the previous quarter.
In that quarter, the remittance inflow declined 17.27 per cent from UAE; 21.09 per cent from Oman; 10.19 per cent from Bahrain; 5.43 per cent from Qatar; 10.17 per cent from Italy; 17.77 per cent from Singapore; and 11.16 per cent from Malaysia, as per the BB report.
Bangladesh received a record $6.71 billion as remittance in July to September quarter of last year owing to the collapse of the informal channels like the hundi system -- an illicit cross-border transaction network -- thanks to the travel ban brought on by the pandemic, said central bank officials.
But the informal channels started to recover from September last year as most of the countries had withdrawn the travel bans, resulting in the downward trend of remittance in the fourth quarter of last year, said the BB officials seeking anonymity.
A good number of migrant workers returned home after losing their jobs, which was another reason, the officials said.
A total of 408,408 migrant workers returned home from 29 countries after they lost their jobs following the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
Besides, some 550,000 aspirants who were expected to migrate abroad for jobs during the period did not get the opportunity to do so.
Then another 150,000 workers could not return to their workplaces after ending their vacations at home, said migration officials and researchers.
The migrant workers had sent more money to their relatives amid the pandemic to deal with the unfamiliar situation, said Faruq Mainuddin Ahmed, managing director of Trust Bank.
But the inflows declined in the coming days as a large number of migrant workers have packed their bags and returned home for good, he added.
During the fourth quarter of last year, Bangladesh received $3,402.56 million as remittance from the Gulf countries -- Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait; $724.47 million from EU countries -- UK, Germany and Italy; $752.34 million from Asia-Pacific countries; $831.27 million from the US; and $520.91 million from other countries, according to the central bank report.
The Bangladesh Bank report showed that only five banks hold a 60 per cent share of the total remittance earned in the October to December quarter of last year, owing to their strong distribution channels, good management, and incentives to promote Bangladeshi expatriates to send money through banking channels.
Of the total $6.23 billion remittances earned during the period, Islami Bank Bangladesh has the highest market share in remittance earnings, which was 30.9 per cent of the total remittance earned through the banking channels, followed by Dutch Bangla Bank at 11.1 per cent, Agrani Bank at 10.8 per cent, Sonali Bank at 6.1 per cent, and Janata Bank at 4.0 per cent.