Coronavirus pandemic hits Bangladesh remittance stream hard

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted diaspora remittance by Bangladeshi abroad with hundreds of thousands of migrant workers returning home and most of the rest struggling to cope up with lockdowns in large parts of the world.

Abdur Rahim Badal Chief Economics
Published : 2 April 2020, 04:00 PM
Updated : 2 April 2020, 04:00 PM

The sharp reduction in remittance is likely to add to the economic strain.

In March, the expatriate workers sent home around $1.29 billion, which is the lowest in 15 months and 12.84 percent less than February. The year-on-year drop is 13.34 percent. 

The remittance inflow in the July-February period was 20 percent higher than the amount received by the country the same period last fiscal year.

With the amount received in March, the growth has dropped to 16.15 percent.  Remittance inflow contributes 12 percent to the national GDP.

More than 10 million Bangladeshis work abroad. But over 666,000 of them returned home between January and mid-March as the coronavirus spread to all parts of the world.   

Economists believe things are not looking up anytime soon as the pandemic continues with no hope of treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 in near future.

A sharp drop in remittance inflow is “natural” in this circumstance, Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, told 

“Many of the expatriates have returned home. Those who are still abroad cannot work as everything is shut. How will they send money to their families when they themselves are struggling to get by,” he said.

“And the situation is worsening by the day. Oil prices have dropped below $20 [per barrel] in the international market. We receive most remittance from the Middle-Eastern countries whose economy is based on oil,” Mansur added.

Bangladesh Bank Executive Director Serajul Islam said remittance inflow grew because of a 2 percent cash incentive. The government has pumped over Tk 30 billion for the incentives in this fiscal year.