Shaikh Hasina during her interaction with Gulf News in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The number Bangladeshis going for overseas employment has been doubled in the past four years; although it has not positively reflected in remittances to the country, the visiting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina said on Tuesday.

“Considering the number of overseas employment, it shows that the [changed] situation of Gulf economies did not affect the number of overseas employment of Bangladeshi workers,” she told Gulf News in an interview on Tuesday in the capital.

In the Bangladeshi financial year 2014-2015, 453,398 Bangladeshis got overseas employment and in the financial year 2017-2018 it became almost double – over 867,128, she said.

Of around 10 million Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs), around five million are in the Middle East, including an estimated 700,000 in the UAE, and two million in Malaysia.

However, the increase in number of overseas workers has not positively reflected in the overall remittances to Bangladesh during the same period, as per the figures provided by the prime minister.

In 2014-15, the total inward remittance was $15316 million (Dh56.21 billion), which dropped to $14931 million (Dh54.79 billion) in 2015-16 and to $12769 million (Dh46.86 billion) in 2016-17.

“But the situation has improved in 2017-18 with a total remittance of $14981 million due to some policy measures taken by the government to use formal channels. The trend of this year is robust - $9087 million in 7 months. Hopefully it will cross $15000 million at the end of the fiscal year,” Shaikh Hasina said.

The growth of Internet services throughout Bangladesh under the Government’s Digital Bangladesh campaign, as well as the availability of electronic banking services, should help reduce remittances through illegal channels, she said.

“We have [banks that allow] expats to transfer money through legal channels, and their families can collect [the funds] in a short span of a time. In addition, all our embassies have been instructed to visit institutions and to [take the required action] against any irregularities.”

New foreign destinations

As Bangladeshis are exploring new foreign destinations, the government is offering skill-based training in 55 trades and language training to the prospective migrant workers through a large number of training centres. “Moreover, we have completed market-based research on 53 countries for sending our people. At present, we are exploring three more countries,” she said without elaborating further.

Regarding the Bangladeshis’ employment opportunities in the UAE, she said:

“Resumption of employment of Bangladesh nationals in the UAE job market is a priority issue for us. As you are aware, significant progress has already been made in this sector. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed [earlier] for recruitment of Bangladeshi nationals in 19 categories. Recruitment of professionals particularly in medical and engineering sectors has been opened up. Both governments are working on it. We hope that recruitment of our workers will start soon in a bigger way,” the Prime Minister explained.

Bilateral meetings

In her meetings with top leaders of the UAE, she discussed whole gamut of bilateral relations and identified new areas of cooperation. “We would like the UAE to become a prominent development partner. Investment is a potential area of cooperation. There are several proposals of UAE investment in the area of power, energy, special economic zones etc. in Bangladesh.”

The UAE- Bangladesh annual bilateral trade stands at $1.2 billion. “There is huge potential to further expand the trade. In addition, there are further potential areas of cooperation - civil aviation, education, culture, maritime affairs, shipbuilding, and energy etc.,” the prime minister said.

Investment schemes for expats

The government offers three investment schemes such as US Dollar premium bond, US Dollar Investment bond and Wage earners’ Development bond for Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs), which offer attractive interest to the depositors. “We have also 10% investment reserves for our NRBs in IPOs (Initial Primary Offerings) issued by companies listed with local stock markets,” Shaikh Hasina said.

Voting rights for expats

Regarding the voting rights for NRBs, she said it was not practical to facilitate voting in foreign nations. However, NRBs can vote if they visit Bangladesh during elections.