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Drop in Manpower Export is Alarming
Ngày đăng: 04/05/2011 - Lượt xem: 931

Bangladesh's present highest-ever foreign currency reserve of well over 10 billion US dollars has been the outcome of mainly the higher and higher remittances sent by overseas Bangladeshi workers. But it is doubtful whether this uptrend in remittance can be sustained even in the short term.

A little over 300,000 Bangladeshi workers found overseas jobs in 2010, according to a reliable estimate. But in 2008, some 875,000 workers from Bangladesh went abroad with jobs. Thus, from these figures alone one may have an idea of the big plunge in manpower exports -- by over 60 per cent -- in only about two years and the adverse consequences of the same for the Bangladesh economy.

The above figures are certainly a wake up call for those who should be concerned in Bangladesh. Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina visited Saudi Arabia in 2009 and also other oil-rich kingdoms in the same region. It was publicized prominently after her Saudi visit that the same had unlocked the way to full-fledged resumption of the flow of Bangladeshi manpower to that country.

But that information, unfortunately, has proved to be untenable. The same apply in relation to other Arab countries that employ Bangladeshi workers. It was prominently made known after the PM's visit that Saudi Arabia would allow Bangladeshi workers to take up new jobs in that kingdom following termination of contracts in existing jobs. But that has not yet happened.

It appears that our missions in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have not followed up as much as they should have with the governments of those countries after the PM's visits to ensure that the agreements reached during those visits get progressively honored. The missions are also not playing their part in successfully dispelling canards about Bangladeshi workers which are deliberately spread by some interest groups.

In the eastern front, the media recently reported on the Malaysian authorities only promising to consider legalising of Bangladeshi workers staying irregularly in that country. But what is required is unequivocal declaration by the government of that country that it would remove all barriers to large-scale entry of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia which used to be a major destination of Bangladeshi workers. Saudi Arabia is the single biggest destination of Bangladeshi workers. But the export of Bangladeshi manpower to that country remains a trickle compared to the previous free flow. The same kind of big drops are noted in exporting our manpower to prime destinations in the Gulf area such as in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, etc.

Government in Bangladesh needs to take the falling indictors of manpower export growth very seriously indeed as this sector virtually became the strongest pillar that held up the Bangladesh economy. The government should mount intense efforts in a very focused manner particularly in the countries that in the past received the highest number of workers from Bangladesh for a positive turnaround in this situation.

There is a lot of theorizing about finding and developing alternative host countries for Bangladeshi manpower but little progress has been actually noted. The search for new manpower export markets will take time and involve trial and error processes. In other words, it will likely take a long time to secure outlets for our manpower to these new markets on a sustainable basis. But manpower export cannot be allowed to shrink precariously till that time considering the havoc it would cause to the economy.

The imperative, thus, is to regain momentum in exporting to the traditionally biggest importing countries of our manpower. From the familiarity of Bangladeshi workers in these countries and their well appreciated diligence by the employers, it should be easier to regain lost opportunities in those countries. It appears that hindrances to exporting manpower in those countries is not due to reluctance on the part of the employers. The barriers are posed more by the governments and vested interest groups there. Thus, the hurdles are mainly political in character and needs to be taken up on a state-to-state level. A strong, well-conceived and sustained diplomatic push is necessary to regain our manpower markets in the biggest importing countries, specially in the Middle East. Not recognizing the need for it or not acting in time, will only spell disaster for the economy.

The Labor and Manpower Minister sounded upbeat, according to a media report that the present gloom in manpower export would lift. Manpower export would increase in the new year according to him. Indeed, manpower exports would take wings and fly if wishes turned out to be like birds. But that is not to be.

The current patchwork attempts to send manpower to new and novel destinations can be no substitute for getting back the markets in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region. The Manpower Minister's statement that decreasing manpower demand in these countries is the reason for the drop in our manpower export is not tenable. Our neighboring countries, India and Nepal, are rapidly and largely increasing their manpower export to Saudi Arabia and nearby countries. Thus, it needs identification what factors are causing the decline in our manpower export and addressing them promptly and efficiently.

There is every reason for the government to immediately start taking very seriously the disconcerting developments in the manpower export sector. The adverse trend in manpower export must be reversed at the soonest. Otherwise, the country's economy -- both at macro and micro levels -- will soon come to the brink of great peril.

The greatest positive input under the circumstances would be an effective diplomatic campaign in the traditional manpower-importing counties so that they once again start welcoming our workers in large number. To this end, the government will have to get its act together and launch the strongest of diplomatic moves.

Enayet Rasul Bhuiyan

The Financial Express

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