Worker remittances, Sri Lanka’s largest foreign-exchange earner, posted a decline, for the eleventh consecutive month in April this year, as migrant workers only sent home USD 248.9 million during the month, down 52 per cent from USD 518.8 million.
According to data released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), during the first four months of this year, migrant workers sent home USD 1,031.5 million, down 56.8 per cent from USD 2,385.8 million sent during the same period last year.
In March this year, migrant workers sent home USD 318.4 million, down 47.5 per cent from 612 million a year ago.
In February this year, migrant workers sent home USD 204.9 million, down 64.5 per cent from 579.7 million a year ago.
In January this year, migrant workers sent home USD 259.2 million, down 61.6 per cent from 675.3 million a year ago.
During 2021 migrant workers sent home USD 5.49 billion, down 22.7 per cent compared to USD 7.1 billion sent home during 2020.
The CBSL attempted to attract more worker remittances through formal channels providing an incentive above the exchange rate offered by the banks, which was still below the black-market price.
With the foreign exchange crisis taking a major toll on the Sri Lankan economy, the Central Bank decided to float the rupee and the local currency crashed to near Rs 365 against the dollar.
After removing the incentive programme as the exchange rate broke a record high, the Central Bank on Monday (28 March) issued another Circular which restricted currency exchangers from offering higher exchange rates than licensed banks.
Worker remittances have been Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange earner and the country’s balance of payment has been highly dependent on the income generated by migrant workers.
In 2020, many Sri Lankans working overseas returned to the country following the Covid-19 pandemic, which shattered the global economy.
The foreign employment sector is one of the largest employment providers to address national unemployment and poverty issues prevailing in the country.
However, Sri Lanka has been witnessing a declining trend in the number of departures for foreign employment over the last few years.
By Mario Andree