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Emigrants: Overseas assets of Bangladesh
Mohammed Nazim Uddin

          In the 29 years between 1976 and 2005, the total remittance inflow to Bangladesh stood at US$32.42 billion. Only in 2005, it stood around US $ 3.2 billion. What change can this amount bring about in Bangladesh? Well, we can build around four bridges like one that has been constructed over the river Jamuna with that amount. Total cost to build the one we call Jamuna bridge was only US $ 0.75 billion. Please also note that the bridge was mostly financed with overseas loans, roughly around $600 million. It seems like nothing is possible in Bangladesh without loan and overseas donations. The real picture is that Bangladesh no longer relies on donations, as the readers might know that, total aid and grant received were only $1.6 billion dollars in 2004.
Remittance flows benefit everyone in Bangladesh through income multiplier effects. A research shows that remittances may have reduced poverty in Bangladesh by six percentage points, in Lesotho by about 11 percentage points; in Ghana by five points.
In 2005, a total of US $ 67 billions was sent to developing countries. Mostly of these remittances went to India and China. The countries receiving the most of the recorded remittances are India ($21.7 billion), China ($21.3 billion), Mexico ($18.1 billion), and the Philippines ($11.6 billion). Those for which remittances account for the largest proportion of gross domestic product are Tonga (31%), Moldova (27.1%), Lesotho (25.8%), Haiti (24.8%), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (22.5%). This figures tell half the stories since around 50% of the total remittances are flown through illegal ways. Remittances are not only restricted to developing countries, many developed countries also benefits from international migration. France received around $12.7 billion in 2005.
Migrants are redrawing the map of global labour markets. Remitters and their families are forging a new kind of family-the transnational family-living in and contributing to two cultures, two countries, and two economies at the same time. Remittance flows, a major consequence of migration, are now a fixture of the international economic and financial landscape. Migration, as part of a process of global integration, spawns new interrelated labour markets and transnational networks comprised of families and individuals.
There are three millions non-resident Bangladeshis (NRB) living abroad. 1.2 million of them live permanently in overseas. Among permanent settlers, most of them live in the USA (500 thousands) and the UK (500 thousands), Italy (70 thousands), Canada (35 thousands), Australia (15 thousands), Greece (11 thousands), and other countries. However, among the temporary emigrants, the most popular destination is the Middle East, and the most favourite country is Saudi Arabia (1 million) and it is followed by the UAE (with about 480,000 migrants), Kuwait (more than 380,000 labour migrants officially), Oman (more than 230,000), and - to a lesser extent - Bahrain, Qatar, Libya and Iraq (until the Gulf War of 1991). In South-East Asia, Malaysia has been the main destination country with officially more than 250,000 Bangladeshis labour migrants.
If we look at the sources of remittances to Bangladesh in 2004/05, Saudi Arabia is the top remittance source for Bangladesh. The following table shows the remittance sources:
The table shows that, the main source of remittance flows is the Middle East. The rationale behind these, among others, is that most of NRB's in the region live without the family members. So naturally, they sent more in proportion of their incomes to Bangladesh. Where as in the western countries, NRB's are permanently settled with the families. There life revolves around the new country.
It seems that, the Middle East should be the destination of our emigrants. However, if we carefully look at the driving force behind economic activities of the region, it is fossil fuels, which are drying up. As a result, we should not be relying on the region for our long-term flows of remittance. In the distant future, we should focus on the industrially advanced countries- the USA, the UK, Canada; and Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, etc. Our emigrants in those countries will be working in multinationals, transnational companies, who will be able to help in building up Bangladesh as their back office operations, a member of strategic supply chain- just like Indian emigrants. It is already evident that immigrants bring enthusiasm, entrepreneurship, and wider cultural knowledge. We can use some examples here to clarify above, Lakshmi Mittal, an Indian living in the UK, is the UK's richest man with a net asset of around $14 billion dollar, Iqbal Ahmed, A Bangladeshi living in the UK, is the 450th richest man in the UK with a net asset of around $ 1.0 billion.
Immigration can sometime be seen as a source of brain drain. There is no doubt about that, however, in the long run, this brain drain will be helping the original countries in the form of brain gain. Behind the success of Indian IT firms are overseas Indians living in the USA. One of the many strengths India offers to the world is its educated and skilled manpower. They are spread around the globe.
Immigration is changing the global demography, many developed countries depends on immigrants. The USA could not be a developed nation unless there were immigrants, in the UK National Health Service one in every four doctors is Indian, without the nurse of the Philippines, many hospitals in developed countries cannot operate. In India, many doctors and engineers and IT professionals study only to become a successful emigrant.
Let us consider immigration an opportunity for our youths. Let us educate them, train them in conformity with the world's best standard so that they are more articulate, they acquire more transferable skills and become more employable. In this age of globalisation, immigrants are treated as an important economic source. If every factor of trades and productions can be imported and exported, why should there be restrictions in the movement of people?


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