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bKash wants to ride the wave of remittance

  • Published at 06:53 pm December 5th, 2020
Remittance Nov 2020

Accountholders of the country's leading MFS player would get a total of 3% cash incentive on remittance receipts as it looks to cash in on the switch to legal channels by expatriate Bangladeshis for sending money home

bKash is offering 1 per cent cash bonus to its customers for the amount they receive from abroad as the country’s pioneering mobile financial service provider looks to capitalise on the surge in remittance inflows in recent months.

In the first 11 months of 2020, migrant workers sent home about $19.8 billion, which is the highest yet in the country’s 49-year history. Last year, Bangladesh received about $18.3 billion, which was a record until October this year.

In November, the country received about $2.1 billion, the third straight month in which upwards of $2 billion flew in, according to data from the Bangladesh Bank. 

bkash's cash bonus to its 5 crore-odd customers comes on top of the 2 per cent cash incentive offered on remittance, introduced in fiscal 2018-19 by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.

“We are offering the bonus on the occasion of Victory Day,” Shamsuddin Haider Dalim, head of corporate communications and PR at bKash, told Dhaka Tribune. The offer ends on January 31, 2021.

In the first nine months of 2020, the MFS platform channelled Tk 891.3 crore of the remittance received, which is about 0.7 per cent of the total amount that came at that point.

The country’s leading MFS provider is hoping the offer would tempt the expatriate Bangladeshis in the selected 93 countries to remit their money home through the 42 money transfer organisations to their relatives’ bKash accounts.

The cash incentive can be availed twice a month and a maximum of 4 times during the whole campaign, bKash said in a press release on Sautrday. As a result, s/he can get up to Tk 1,200 in a month and a maximum of Tk 2,400 during the offer period.

bKash is following the lead of Agrani Bank, which has the same offer for its customers for a while now. 

In November, the state-run bank received about $220.2 million in remittance, which was the highest among all state-run banks.

“The increasing trend of remittance received through our bank was mainly due to the 1 percent additional cash incentive from our own funds,” Mohammad Shams-ul Islam, managing director of Agrani, told Dhaka Tribune.

Agrani’s exchange Office in Singapore has created an app to commemorate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which would allow expatriate Bangladeshi in the southeast Asian island nation to send remittances from their mobile phones and without paying a visit to the branch.

Meanwhile, experts credited the collapse in the hundi system, an illicit cross-border transaction network, thanks to the travel ban brought on by the raging coronavirus could explain the gush of remittance amid the pandemic.

The hundi network was moored on international travel, import business and medical tourism. All have been in the slow lane since the pandemic began in February.

“But the expatriate Bangladeshis still need to send in money home and they turned to the legal channel,” said Zahid Hussain, former lead economist of the World Bank’s Dhaka office.

The manpower export has virtually on hold since March and that the top sources for remittance -- the oil-rich Gulf nations, the US and Malaysia -- are very much in recession.

“Of course, there is the flood effect, Hajj effect and returnees bringing their savings home, but none can explain such an increase as witnessed since July other than the switch to a legal channel for sending money home,” Hussain added.

The technological transformation seen in recent times that has made receiving remittance within minutes via mobile financial services might have posed itself as a viable alternative to hundi amid the pandemic, said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh.

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