Bangladeshi diaspora: Role in economic development
Bangladesh has vibrant diaspora communities around the world which has been a result of sustained migration trends from the Bangladesh. The oil boom in the 1970s in the Middle Eastern countries also came as a windfall to many migrants and offered opportunities to alter their fate by undertaking migration to Middle Eastern countries. Despite the vigorous presence of Bangladeshi migrants around the world, the contribution of the diaspora communities still remain paltry.
Diaspora plays an indispensable role in the development journey of origin countries. Development requires knowledge transfer, technology transfer, generous investment and transnational coordination. Therefore, due to the advantageous presence of diaspora communities around the world, they are better poised to play a decisive role by their knowledge, experience and investments in the development of their origin countries.
The precedents of developed countries amply demonstrate the indispensable role the diaspora communities play in the development trajectory of a country. Therefore, failing to tap into the potential of the diaspora communities in catalyzing development will spell a vital loss of opportunity and may ensue stagnated development. China is an illustration how a country utilizes the diaspora communities for the economic development of the countries. The Chinese government has undertaken a commendable and well-coordinated plan to forestall the brain-drain from China and bestowed the individuals with foreign degrees greater incentive in order to harness their contribution in its path to national development.
This sustained Chinese policy of incentivizing diaspora and migrants for taking part into indigenous development has yielded considerable dividends for the country as it has aided China to develop its domestic technological sector and formidable prowess in science and technology. India has also emulated China's policy and undertaken laudable policies to tap into the potential of the diaspora communities especially it has concentrated efforts in garnering investments from the diaspora communities. Besides, India has also utilized the technological knowhow from its diaspora communities in order to develop its own technological industries. Moreover, it can be deduced from the development trajectory of myriad countries that the role of diaspora communities in expediting development remains catalytic and instrumental.
As with many countries of South Asia, Bangladesh has a history of migration from the colonial period owing to its contiguity to naval routes and employment of Bangladeshi in the foreign ships. A plethora of the pioneering migrants had seized the opportunity and settled into western countries when the migration regulation was lax and the western countries wanted labour. Bangladeshi migrants had exploited these opportunities and through community ties they had supported others from their acquaintances to settle in the coveted western countries. This has set off a chain of migration which has helped greatly in ensuring a vigorous footprint of Bangladeshi around the world.
A second wave of migration set in at the turn of 1970s when the world economy had undergone a drastic shift to neoliberalism. Therefore, in line with the precept of neoliberalism the western developed countries required cheap labour to sustain their competitive production. This has triggered both legal and illicit migration from Bangladesh to western countries. Especially the oil boom and consequent thriving economy of gulf countries also required labour for their economy. Therefore, a shortfall of labour had given a momentum to the migration from Bangladesh.
Over the years, the diaspora communities from Bangladesh have been consolidated around the world and have been crystallized by their shared identity of Bangladeshi. The diaspora communities had therefore coordinated on numerous occasions and played instrumental roles for Bangladesh in galvanizing global support for Bangladesh. The role played by Bangladeshi diaspora communities in garnering international support for the liberation war is still remembered with great ardour. Besides, Bangladeshi diaspora communities in Canada have played a praiseworthy role in gaining global recognition of the language movement by UNESCO.
However, despite commendable cultural connection and mobilization of support for Bangladesh in the international front, diaspora communities has still failed to contribute considerably to the development and the economy of the country. The mechanism and infrastructure to facilitate the contribution of the diaspora communities in the national economy is still woeful. Far from accelerating the contribution of diaspora communities in the national development, the prevailing business ecosystem is laden with innumerable pitfalls which dissuade the potential investors from the diaspora communities. Unlike other countries that harnessed the contribution of the diaspora communities in their national economy, Bangladesh had failed to develop a channel for tapping diaspora contribution in the economy .Besides, the current state of incentives bestowed to diaspora communities is still dismal.
In stark contrast to prevailing woeful state of diaspora contribution in national development, every developed country presupposes sustained network with the diaspora communities for development. Despite repeated utterances of prime minister and ministers concerned, the government failed to adequately harmonize the role of its concerned apparatus that are responsible in guaranteeing and incentivizing the diaspora communities to take part in the economic development of the country.
The economy of the country is flourishing which has been recognized by international communities and Bangladesh had won laurels for transforming its ramshackle economy--which was once pejoratively likened to the "basket case"--to the thriving economy today underpinned by robust growth. The government has undertaken a host of economic zones in order to attract foreign investments. However, sincere efforts from government had been thwarted repeatedly due to some intractable problems which render Bangladesh inhospitable for investing. These same issues are also deterring the diaspora communities to economically contribute to the country by means of investment.
Besides, the incentives of the government gearing towards the diaspora communities is outmoded and require reassessment in order to better fit with the current trend. Besides, a coordinated approach needs to be undertaken by the concerned ministries to attract investments from the diaspora communities and ensure them dividends. Besides, the government should also undertake sincere efforts to harness the potential of knowledge possessed by the diaspora communities to bolster development in the country. Moreover, the diaspora community is one of the cornerstones of the development trajectory of any nation and Bangladesh needs to be prudent enough to utilize the benefits of its diaspora community.
The writer is a student,
Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka