We always feel proud of a healthy forex reserve that shows the strength of our economic muscle, which is the hard-earned earning of Bangladeshi expatriates working across the world. Currently the country has a record reserve of over 39 billion dollars.
The money they remitted has, so far helped keep Bangladesh’s economy floating amid a global recession triggered by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The leading question is how much efforts we could employ for the comfort of this section of hard-working Bangladeshis sending money back home.
On Tuesday, several thousand anxious Bangladeshis, who returned from Saudi Arabia due to the Covid-19 crisis, demonstrated in Dhaka demanding air tickets to travel to the oil-rich desert kingdom, where they are employed. The tragedy is that only Saudi Airlines is operating two flights a week and could carry only about 1,000 out of nearly 30,000 passengers who have to go back to their work by 30 September. The kingdom recently relaxed the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.
The protesters fear losing their jobs unless they can report within this month and no other airline is operating in that route.
This is indeed a perplexing situation for these expatriate workers and the government, albeit delayed, has written to the Saudi Government to extend their time of joining, but their fate is still uncertain.
The concerned ministries should have made arrangements to avoid the situation for these “undeclared VIPs.” The alternative is to start flights of the national flag carrier Biman immediately instead of the planned 1 October.
We should note here that India and Pakistan have sent their nationals to Saudi Arabia soon after the gulf nation lifted the restriction. If Bangladeshi expatriates fail to secure their jobs the country will be faced with a two-pronged crisis — how to emply them at home and loss of share of our labour market.
If this happens then the country also stands to lose the much needed remittance to keep the economy strong. Saudi Arabia is the largest destination for Bangladeshi workers.
Can we afford to lose this market?
We should treat our hard-working workers abroad with due honor and
act now to save their livelihood as well as the country’s economy.