”Coronavirus outbreak is the biggest challenge for the world since the Second World War. It could bring a recession.” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres made the comment while launching a report on the potential socio-economic impacts of the outbreak.
Surely Bangladeshis are going to face a huge jolt as a result of the situation at home and abroad.
Sensing the possible downturn, the government has taken multiple initiatives to cope with the days ahead. It has allocated five thousand crore taka for the export-oriented sector, mainly readymade garments (RMG), which is one of the two main lifelines of our economy. The other lifeline is remittance.
However, the remittance fighters are in deep crisis as most of them have to stay indoors due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Experts have suggested that the government take the issue into cognizance immediately.
Former Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Salehuddin Ahmed told The Asian Age, “Apparently the government is still silent regarding the issue. Migrant workers are at risk of losing their jobs. Government to government initiatives should be taken immediately so that Bangladeshi workers do not lose jobs or send them back when the situation
”There are possibilities of workers being laid off by many companies and Bangladeshis will be the first victims,” he added.
This economist stressed that the government should stand by the families of the expatriates in Bangladesh with conditional cash incentives.
In 2019, expatriate Bangladeshis sent home a record $18.32 billion, up 17.89 percent against $15.54 billion in 2018. According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, the readymade garments sector registered $34.13 billion with a rise of 11.49 percent.
In the opinion of former Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank Khondker Ibrahim Khaled, ”The government could approach the jobless expatriates through embassies as they send huge amounts of money to the country.”
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), stressed the need for the Bangladesh government’s seeking diplomatic support through its embassies so that jobless expatriates get their salaries on time.
He said, ”The needy families of the expatriates in Bangladesh could be brought under the social safety net because we have a big safety net program. The government could enhance the net as it has enough stock of foodgrains.”
Liakot Hossain, a Bangladeshi from Cumilla living in Dammam of Saudi Arabia, told this correspondent over phone,” We are entirely under lockdown for more than three weeks. None can go out. We don’t know when the situation will be normal. I have had no income for almost two months.”
Salim Nur, a Bangladeshi from Noakhali living in Abha district of Saudi Arabia, where he runs a grocery shop, told The Asian Age,” My investment is at risk as I have not been able to open my shop for more than three weeks. Police have cordoned off the entire city to curb the spread of coronavirus. My family in Bangladesh is fully dependent on me.”
Around two million Bangladeshis are living in the KSA.
Muzibur Rahman Sharif, a Bangladeshi from Cumilla now living in Italy’s southern city of Sicily said,” This city has been deserted for weeks. Almost all the people are staying indoors. Law enforcers are actively patrolling all the roads so that none can go out”
Cumilla, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni and B’baria are home to a large number of expatriates living in different countries.
This correspondent could not reach Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad to talk about the issue despite repeated calls on his cell phone. However, his APS Rasheduzzaman told him,” The minister has already directed all embassies and high commissions, especially in Europe and the Middle East, to stand by the Bangladeshis and extend them all necessary help.”
As per data of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), Bangladesh sends workers to 168 countries. As of November 2019, a total of 604,006 workers were sent abroad while the figure was 734,181 in 2018.
World Migration Report 2020 of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) notes that a total of 7.5 million Bangladeshis are living in different countries, which makes them rank sixth in the list of migrants. India tops the list with 17.5 million people, followed by Mexico 11.8 million and China 10.7 million. However, Bangladesh is not among the top 10 remittance-receiving countries.
The government has plans of sending out more workers in 2020 as some closed labor markets are expected to reopen this year.
Courtesy – Daily Asian Age