In the New Nation of 18th December 2008, Monsur Reza Chowdhury (Joint secretary, Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment)  is reported to have said that Bangladeshi labour markets abroad are not likely to be adversely affected by world economic recession. Read  here. Doesn’t that sound bizarre? I mean why would Bangladeshi migrant workers be unaffected?

So it wasn’t surprising to find in the Daily Star yesterday Abdul Matin Chowdhury, the minister for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment,  saying that joblessness amongst Bangladeshi workers in Singapore is a direct consequence of global economic recession -  contradicting the earlier statement by the official from his ministry.

Surely it is not rocket science to realise that there might be a knock-on effect of the global recession? Well apparently there is room for doubt.  The Centre for Policy Development doesn’t seem to thinks so. They reckon that Arab countries are NOT likely to experience the crunch as badly. They are predicting a healthy and steady rise in remittances from Bangladeshi migrant workers. They point to these figures  - $8.22billion last year; $6.55billion the year before and are predicitng $10billion by the end of the current financial year. The CPD are looking for

” greater dynamism and facilitation from the foreign ministry, expatriate welfare ministry and our overseas missions” so that “manpower export could be diversified, especially at a time when the traditional labour markets are likely to face a crunch if the global recession lingers.”

Ifty Islam of Asian Tiger Capital partners takes another view and  writes :

“It is becoming increasingly evident that remittance inflow from Middle Eastern countries is likely to be adversely affected.” He goes on to describe Dubai’s property and financial woes.

And if this is indeed the case, then the situation of almost 3 million Bangladesh and Pakistanis in the UAE becomes very precarious. They make up the greatest proprotion of construciton companies’ costs ( even though they are paid about 3-5 dirhams or about one dollar an hour) and they lack employtment protection.

You would think that given the worsening situation, the government and the think-tanks would be a bit more circumspect about sending abroad as many workers as they can cram into planes. Remember that in the favoured destination areas - the middle east -  migrant workers have no one to turn to and next to no rights.