Sunday, 3 March, 2024

Unaccounted Remits

Nepali youths have been flocking out of country to work in harsh conditions abroad saying that there is lack of employment opportunities at home. However, a news report in this daily says that millions of foreigners, mainly Indians, have been working in Nepal in various sectors ranging from construction to gold jewellery business and taking billions of rupees away in the form of remittance every year. Construction sector alone has over a million Indians working who receive a total of 200 billion rupees in wages and salaries annually. Similarly, tens of thousands of Indian craftsmen are working in gold jewellery business who take away as much as Rs. 36 billion. There are various other sectors ranging from hair cutting to carpentry where there is presence of a large number of Indian workers as they don’t require permits to work here.

It’s indeed a paradox that on the one hand Nepal relies on the remittances sent home by workers abroad to keep its economy floating, and on the other billions of rupees are remitted to India through informal channels by Indian workers. It’s unfortunate for the country to be unable to retain its youths in the country, making the nation largely dependent on foreigners to execute economic activities, even in the service sector. The reliance on foreign workers also results in outflow of a huge sum of money that would otherwise have remained within the country. Nepal receives nearly 900 billion annually from migrant workers abroad, but we do not know how much money actually goes out of the country in the form of remittance, which is disappointing indeed and raises a question about the way Nepal Rastra Bank has been calculating the Balance of Payments.

There are several factors responsible for the contradictory situation. Firstly, Nepali youths are unwilling to work in the informal sector within the country though they are ready to do anything abroad. They seem to have been a victim of a misconception that they can get lucrative jobs if they fly out of the country. And the government has failed to do enough to remove this misconception; in fact the government should encourage the youths to stay and work within the country rather than leave the nation in search of jobs abroad. That way the country doesn’t need to rely on foreign workers to carry out development activities and can also prevent a lot of money from going out in the form of remittance.

As a preparation in this direction, the government needs to work out a comprehensive human resource development plan and implement it accordingly. That way the country can generate lots of employment to retain youths from going abroad to work in harsh conditions. As a first step towards this, the government can collaborate with the private sector and train youths to work in construction sector that can easily absorb up to one million workers. At the same time, the government should think about introducing work permits for Indians to work in Nepal. That will be instrumental in efficient management of informal sector and collection of valuable information to formulate appropriate economic policies in the days ahead.