Formal channel can speed up remittance inflow: Sudhesh Giriyan

Sudhesh-Giriyan-Xpress-MoneyAviation News: Bangladesh government is vigorously working towards signing MOUs with various new job markets under the Government-to-Government system. In order to increase the remittance inflow, the government can give the migrants incentives to invest in their homeland, such as by setting up SMEs etc. The government should also encourage the migrants to use formal remittance channels to transfer money and, with the help of International Money Transfer Operators, educate them on safe remittance practices. Xpress Money Vice president and Business Head, Sudhesh Giriyan said in an exclusive interview.

Aviation News: Currently around 8 million (80 lakh) Bangladeshi workers are working abroad? According to the latest World Bank report, could you describe the overall status of expatriates Bangladeshi workers?
Sudhesh Giriyan: The Bangladeshi workforce is known for their honesty and hard-working traits that have helped them build a positive representation across the globe. Due to the recent returning of Bangladeshi expatriates from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, the remittance industry may perhaps witness a downslide. However, the Bangladeshi government is exploring new markets like Poland, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, South Africa, Angola, Congo, Bhutan, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Australia, Italy, New Zealand and Ghana, where the demand for Bangladeshi manpower is augmenting. According to the recent World Bank report, growth in remittance flows to developing countries is expected to accelerate to an annual average of 8.4 percent over the next three years, raising flows to $436 billion in 2014 and $516 billion in 2016.

Aviation News: Recently many migrants have returned after losing their jobs. What kinds of initiatives Bangladesh can (public and private both sector) take to protect workers right?
Sudhesh Giriyan: The Bangladesh government and non-profit organizations have taken active steps to educate the workforce on the laws of the land they are headed to. BRAC’s (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) program is dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights of migrants through legal empowerment. HRLS operates 517 Legal Aid Clinics in 61 of 64 districts across Bangladesh. Moreover, during their employment in overseas countries, the expats can reach out to the Bangladeshi embassies to voice their issues and thereby necessary action can be taken. Through these initiatives, they have ensured that the rights of migrants are central in all discussions and dialogues and the growing need for social protection for migrants and members of their families is addressed.

Aviation News: Various studies said that the construction and real estate sector in the GCC region need around 5 million workers, how can Bangladeshis explore this opportunity?
Sudhesh Giriyan: With international events such as Dubai Expo 2020 in UAE and 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar being the prominent ones, there is a huge requirement of workers in the Gulf region. These events would require large numbers of laborers and construction workers and this demand will be filled predominantly by the Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi nationals. The government of Bangladesh has taken special initiatives to train millions of the country’s youth and eligible migrants to equip them with the necessary skills needed to succeed in their new job environment.

Aviation News: According to recent Bangladesh Bank data on remittance, remittance inflow to Bangladesh is fluctuating. What kind of incentives should the Bangladesh government take to increase the remittance inflow?
Sudhesh Giriyan: The Bangladesh government is vigorously working towards signing MOUs with various new job markets under the Government-to-Government system. Besides, in order to increase the remittance inflow, the government can give the migrants incentives to invest in their homeland, such as by setting up SMEs etc. The government should also encourage the migrants to use formal remittance channels to transfer money and, with the help of International Money Transfer Operators, educate them on safe remittance practices. More training centers can be established to guide the migrants in the destination countries.

Aviation News: Bangladesh plans to transform itself from unskilled manpower exporter to semi-skilled and skilled manpower exporter. Based on world trend, kindly suggest in which sector Bangladesh can make the workers skilled?
Sudhesh Giriyan: In the past, overseas Bangladeshi workers were majorly employed in factories, construction sites, agricultural and fishing jobs. However, in the recent years, the demand for white-collared workers from Bangladesh is on the rise. Rapid technological advances have triggered a paradigm shift in the global healthcare, retail and customer service sectors. Bangladeshi workforce can work towards developing the skill-sets required in these sectors to boost efficiency and the country can transform itself into a semi-skilled and skilled manpower exporter.

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Aviation News: How remittances contribute in forex reserve?
Sudhesh Giriyan: Remittances remain a key source of external resource flows for developing countries, far exceeding official development assistance and more stable than private debt and portfolio equity flows. The central role of remittances to underpinning the balance of payments is also evident from comparisons with exports and imports of goods and services.

Aviation News: According to Bangladesh Bank, MFS (Mobile financial services) can help reduce remittance cost in Bangladesh. What are your views on this? Does Xpress Money have partnership with any mobile operator?
Sudhesh Giriyan: The use of cheaper, internet-based remittance and mobile remittance channels is on the rise. The remittance market in Bangladesh has witnessed an exponential growth and migrants are accepting this new mobile money channel for sending money back to their home. The Bangladeshi government is also saying that mobile banking/smart cards and use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is playing important role in collecting and distributing the remittances at low cost. Off branch remittance delivery to beneficiaries through smart card/mobile phone banking have been introduced to bring down remittance cost. Xpress Money also offers Mobile Account Credit service in Bangladesh through Dutch Bangla Bank Limited & Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd. Under this service, the sender is able to transfer money directly into the mobile account of their beneficiary.

Aviation News: Is there any relation between recruiting costs and remittance inflow? Kindly throw some light on Bangladesh government’s initiative to reduce the cost of manpower export.
Sudhesh Giriyan: Yes, there is a relation between the two. Higher recruiting costs definitely create a negative impact on remittance inflows. In most cases, it compels people to settle the additional expenses through illegal channels. To reduce recruiting costs, the Bangladesh government has started exploring new destinations to export manpower under their own supervision. The government believes that private recruiters charge exorbitant fees to send people abroad; if workers were recruited from the government database itself, the migration costs of these workers would drastically reduce.
Therefore, a policy has been put in place wherein manpower is recruited through public sector companies and these companies sign agreements directly with the governments of those countries where the manpower is being recruited. This is called a Government to Government arrangement. Presently, Bangladesh is exporting manpower to Malaysia, Korea, Jordan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the government to government initiative.

Aviation News: While women accounted for 48 percent of international migrants, how Bangladesh can increase female migrant workers?
Sudhesh Giriyan: The Bangladeshi government has realized the importance of women migrating overseas and hence a 21 days training has been made compulsory for women workers going abroad. The government has built 35 new vocational training centers to help workers hone skills and educate them about laws of the land required for overseas jobs. BMET and UN women have jointly established Women Expatriate Information Centre and have 14 dedicated vocational training centres for women among its 37 vocational training centres across Bangladesh.The training enhances the expatriate women’s skills, abilities for self-protection and the employability for overseas jobs, which, has a positive impact on women’s advancement.

Aviation News: Would you have any plan to launch any product for mobilizing the savings of Diaspora through remittances?
Sudhesh Giriyan: We recently launched the ‘Any Bank Account Credit’ service for our Bangladeshi customers. This service will provide beneficiaries an access to their funds sent to any branch of any scheduled or specialized bank in Bangladesh, within 48 hours from the time the remitter completes the transaction. This service is routed through Bangladesh Electronic Fund Transfer Network (BEFTN), a payment solution provided by Central Bank of Bangladesh. Also, we have been active in financial literacy programs such as haat bazaar campaign conducted last year and a day-long consumer education campaign on occasion of Pohela Boishakh in Noakhali district, this year. Through these road show campaigns we reach out to a wider audience and educate them about safe remittance practices, budgeting and thereby boost the saving culture among them. These savings give the remitter an opportunity to invest in the capital market with various special investment schemes and bonds like wage earner development bond, US dollar investment bond and US dollar premium bond.

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