Migrant workers to get easy loans, social security

Good news for remittance warriors! The government plans to provide social security for returning migrants with various socio-economic problems. He also decided to provide aspiring migrants with easy and low-cost loans to ease their financial stress when going abroad for work.

State-owned Probashi Kalyan Bank (PKB) has already lowered the interest rate for migration loans to 8%, which will come into effect in July. The bank, created in 2011 to support foreign job seekers, will also simplify the loan procedure.

The measures followed the Prime Minister’s directives to provide hassle-free and cheaper loans to overseas job seekers at a time when the country’s remittance income has been falling for several months.

Meanwhile, government sources said the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare is preparing a policy framework to help migrant workers reintegrate into economic activities when they return home.

The state-owned Jiban Bima Corporation had earlier entered into talks with a Saudi company to insure all Bangladeshis working in the Middle East against work-related fatalities and injuries under its Probashi Kormi Bima.

Expatriate workers, whose hard-earned foreign currencies have enriched central bank reserves enough to absorb external financial shocks, have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, as several hundred thousand of them have were forced to return home empty-handed after losing jobs.

The PKB, which has a mandate to provide loans to migrant workers, has been tasked with supporting returning migrants facing financial difficulties.

But the targeted beneficiaries have hardly benefited from the initiative, prompting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to ask the authorities concerned to secure easy loans from the PKB so that job seekers do not have to resort to the sale of land to go abroad.

At the cabinet meeting on February 7 this year, she instructed the Department of Expatriate Welfare to make the overseas employment process highly transparent and to conduct massive media campaigns to inform applicants Overseas Employment Exact Employment Authorities and Total Expenses Needed to Go Abroad.

“In accordance with the instructions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we have decided to ease the process of the migration loan. In the first stage, the bank’s board of directors decided in principle to reduce the interest rate by 9% at 8%,” PKB Chairman Ahmed Munirus Saleheen said.

“The decision would come into effect in July this year. We are even considering implementing the decision before July,” he added.

Noting that many people are still unaware of the loan, he said they are now taking more initiatives to raise awareness about it.

National Reintegration Policy

Despite their outstanding contribution to the economic development of the country, expatriate Bangladeshis have so far not been covered by any government social security program in case they fall into crises of different kinds – including physical, psychological, social and economic. – after returning.

The government has now taken initiatives to provide social security for these people. To this end, it has decided to draw up a “Comprehensive National Reintegration Policy”.

Nasreen Jahan, co-secretary of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare, said her ministry has already started working on the policy, which will be universal in nature.

“Opinion is sought from various government ministries and divisions for policy formulation. The views of members of civil society, private development agencies and experts in relevant fields will also be taken before defining politics,” she added.

The authorities aim to complete the formulation of the policy by this year, she said, adding that implementation work will begin thereafter.

Economists and immigration experts see government initiatives in a positive light.

They believe, however, that the authorities face many challenges to successfully implement this program for returning migrants who have returned home amid the pandemic, as already two years have passed since their return.

Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director of the Center for Policy Dialogue, said: “International experiences show that those who work abroad often find it difficult to reintegrate into the mainstream after returning to their home country in some stage of their life.

Due to long stays in foreign countries or sudden returns to their home countries, they face insecurity and economic challenges. In this context, the issue of reinstatement must be given importance.”

He said the way to provide assistance to returning migrants should be different from the way the government provides assistance to the poor, disabled, elderly or freedom fighters under various safety net programs. social Security.

“Expatriate workers generally return home at an age at which they remain active and have the ability to contribute to the economy. In this context, it is important that they have the opportunity to be employed.”

Going beyond the traditional framework of financial or food assistance, the proposed reintegration policy should provide employment or self-employment opportunities for returning migrants, he suggested.

Asked what the reintegration process will be, the famous economist replied: “It can be done in several ways.

“Firstly, they can benefit from low interest loans. This will enable them to engage in any type of self-employment or business. Secondly, a long-term insurance scheme can be introduced against the money with which they return home from abroad.”

He also suggested that an unemployment assistance and insurance scheme could be introduced to provide assistance to returning migrants until they engage in economic activities or secure employment.

Professor Tasneem Siddiqui, founding chair of the Refugee and Migrant Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), said they had consistently urged the government to integrate returning migrants into security programs social since they began to return home at the start of the pandemic.

Mentioning that it has been almost two years since the migrant workers returned, she said it was best to integrate these vulnerable people into social security programs immediately.

However, she was pleased that the government, although belated, had embarked on such an initiative.

Meanwhile, initiatives have been taken to train 200,000 migrants who have returned home amid the pandemic to turn them into entrepreneurs or provide them with job opportunities abroad under a project financed by the World Bank.

The Wage Earners’ Welfare Board implements the project. The World Bank is spending $200 million on it.

Officials from the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board said work was underway to compile a list of 2,00,000 returning expats in 32 districts.

Bad show of Probashi Kalyan Bank

About 68.04 lakh Bangladeshis were employed in various countries from 2011 to 2021, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).

Till December 2021, the PKB has sanctioned Tk 1,200 crore in migration loans to some 77,000 people with a recovery rate of about 86%, which is twice the average recovery rate in commercial banks in the country, according to bank data.

The situation is no better for returning migrants, who are supposed to get reintegration loans at an interest rate of 4%.

In the FY21 budget, the government focused on rehabilitating thousands of returnees affected by the pandemic, but only 2.3% of them received the PKB reintegration loan, according to the data available.

The bank has distributed Tk 312.32 crore to 11,495 returnees till March 9 this year from the government’s special Tk 700 crore reintegration loan fund, said Md Jahangir Hossain, Managing Director of PKB .

Moreover, the terms and conditions set for the reintegration loan are not as easy as they should be, some returnees claimed.

One such person is Shaheen Ahmed from Natore who was forced to return from Malaysia in 2020. He applied for a Tk2 lakh loan to start a business.

He said that although the loan is supposed to be unsecured, the relevant branch of the bank asked him to provide land documents and business training certificates. Since he could not provide the documents, he eventually had to give up hope of getting the loan.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and the Refugee and Migrant Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) in August last year, found that existing loan conditions – even after the bank has relaxed them through amendments – are not very pleasant. , and the activities allowed under the loan program are not clear to part of potential customers, read the conclusions.

Furthermore, the bank does not have a sufficient number of branches, and those that exist do not have sufficient staff.

Currently, it has 89 branches across the country.

CR Abrar, Executive Director of RMMRU, told TBS: “Increasing the number of PKB branches is however not a solution to the low disbursement of loans to migrants. Government should instead allow other banks to operate the same types of loan programs so that people have easy access to them.” he added.

In the case of a new visa, an aspiring migrant can obtain a maximum of Tk 3 lakh on loan from PKB for a maximum period of 3 years.

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