There cannot be anything better in the midst of the gloom and despondency that Covid–19 has brought upon us than the news that remittance in the month of July has beaten all odds. It has belied all the negative predictions that Bangladesh would be one of those Asian economies, according to the Asian Development Bank, that would suffer the most from a fall in foreign remittance. Defying all expectations of a huge fall due to the economic slump caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, we have seen our workers abroad send in USD 2.6 billion in July, a record for a single month. This has pushed foreign exchange reserves beyond the USD 37 billion mark for the first time in history. Equally gratifying to note is the percentage of increase—62.5 percent more than last year and 42.1 percent from the month of June, according to Bangladesh Bank. A big thanks to our expat workers for this.
The worries that the most important prop of our economy would be severely dented by the pandemic that has affected all the economies has not come to pass, at least as of yet. While we can justifiably feel happy about the remittance figure, we should go deep into the underlying causes and see whether the spike is episodic—is it a one-off phenomenon, or will it be a repetitive feature, of course with the normal variations? Is the spike the result of the two percent incentive declared by the government to discourage illegal transfer by expatriate workers? While that is good news, it would be well to consider that the rise could also be due to the fact that the returning workers have chosen to bring back all their savings from abroad, there being little chance for them to get back their jobs once the pandemic has receded.
While we might feel comfortable with the current situation, we should plan for the eventuality that the large number of our workers who have returned home may not get their jobs back. As such, we should focus on creating jobs for the returnees while they are here and help them to seek new destinations after the pandemic is over, as well as add value to these workers and help them graduate from low to higher paying jobs.